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Charred townhouses to be demolished, rebuilt

Sandi Cox, of Evans City, stands in front of the townhouse unit she owns in Zelienople on Tuesday, Jan. 23. Cox said that firewalls in the building contained the fire to one unit with the adjacent units sustaining minor smoke and water damage. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle

ZELIENOPLE — The fire that destroyed two townhouses in the Timberbrook residential development Jan. 19 would have been much worse had the late Kenneth C. Brennan not taken fire protection so seriously when building the units in the early 1990s.

His daughter, Sandi Cox of Evans City, said on Tuesday that Brennan installed firewalls between each unit that went from the ground floor to the roof.

“The fire department said he went above and beyond,” said Cox, who owns six multifamily buildings in Timberbrook. “They said that is what saved lives.”

Doorbell cameras have determined that an audible “pop” came from a Lincoln Navigator parked in the small driveway at one of six townhouses in a unit, followed by flames.

The vehicle was not running at the time, Cox said.

It appears the Lincoln ignited the townhouse, where the vehicle owner was putting his children to bed upstairs.

All six families in the unit were evacuated, and no injuries were sustained in the significant blaze.

The owner of the Lincoln, whose townhouse suffered the worst damage, did not have fire insurance, Cox said. He did have auto insurance.

She said she feels for the man and his young children, who had just moved in back in December and still had boxes in the garage.

“They walked out with the clothes they were wearing,” she said.

Cox and firefighters entered the townhouse the next day to retrieve keys to the man’s other car, important documents and a few personal items.

Preliminary investigations say the fire that destroyed a Zelienople townhouse and damaged the adjacent units started in a vehicle parked in the driveway, according to the building owner. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle

The man and his young children are now living in an apartment in Butler on a month-to-month basis, Cox is relieved to report.

Tenants of three of the townhouses in the unit returned to their homes that night.

Two were undamaged, and one sustained minimal damage, Cox said.

The first townhouse in the building will be repaired, and the two damaged townhouses will be demolished and rebuilt, Cox said.

She said because the footer is existing, it should only take six months for the two 1,300-square-foot, two bedroom townhouses to be repaired and occupied.

The demolition of the two townhouses will begin as soon as the insurance company ends its investigation, Cox said.

She said the charred Lincoln, which still sat eerily facing the burned building on Tuesday, will be removed so the fire marshal and insurance company can investigate a potential cause for the blaze.

She said Kress Brothers Builders will be the contractor for the demolition and reconstruction of the two burned townhouses.

The state police fire marshal could not be reached on Tuesday for a damage estimate.

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