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February 28, 2012

Bessemer family loses two dogs in blaze

NEW CASTLE — The Pharr family of Bessemer still has their pet iguanas and tortoise.

However, their two schnauzers died in a blaze at their home Sunday, despite the efforts of firefighters.

The fire was reported at 2 p.m. at the home of Thomas and Jerri Pharr at the corner of West Poland Avenue and Elm Street in the borough.

The Pharrs and their three children were not at home.

Members of the Bessemer Volunteer Fire Department responded, as did personnel from the Mahoning and North Beaver township departments, and firefighters from Springfield, Ohio.

The Bessemer incident commander, Lewis Laughlin, said firefighters had discovered a small iguana inside the single-family home that once had been a duplex. The iguana had been in a terrarium, but its glass broke from the force of water from a fire hose, and the creature was found on the floor.

While checking the house, firefighters also discovered a tortoise and rescued it.

When Jerri Pharr arrived, she asked firefighters about a second iguana, a four-foot-long specimen named Sam. They were able to locate Sam inside the home as well.

Much of the damage from the fire was contained to the kitchen. Laughlin said firefighters responded quickly and were able to keep the flames from spreading. He noted there was a “good turnout” of volunteers, with about 50 responding.

Firefighters were at the scene for about three hours, Laughlin said. A crew later returned with the state police fire marshal, who determined the fire was caused by a faulty electric receptacle.

Laughlin added a nearby hydrant aided in quickly knocking down the fire. He also noted the mild temperature assisted as well.

No dollar amount of the damage was available Monday morning, Laughlin said. An insurance estimator is to examine the home.

The American Red Cross was contacted regarding the fire and is providing the Pharr family with temporary housing.

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