Fire confirmed arson

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Posted: Monday, December 6, 2010 3:37 pm

The smell of soot still emanated on the 100 block of Gettysburg’s Chambersburg Street Monday afternoon as owners of buildings severely damaged by fire Friday met with cleaners, contractors and insurance company representatives.

The owner of the Ragged Edge Coffee House and executive director of the Adams Rescue Mission have vowed to rebuild as police determine who started the fire that destroyed a replica Civil War chapel, severely ruined a home currently on the market, temporarily left coffee shop employees without a source of income and displaced those living in a homeless shelter.

A press release distributed by the Gettysburg Borough Police Department Monday afternoon confirmed what many had already suspected. The four alarm blaze that broke at 3:37 a.m. Friday was intentionally set.

Borough Manager Florence Ford said the police department is investigating all leads and directed specific questions to Police Chief Joseph Dougherty. Dougherty was not available Monday and Ford said he is not expected to be in the office until Wednesday.

“You know what I heard one of the girls say to me today? It was priceless,” Bruce Dietrick, executive director of the Rescue Mission said as he stood in a room with no electricity, boarded windows, filthy walls and a crib. “She said ‘people are asking us all kinds of questions and I could start to feel like a victim. I am not a victim, we are all miracles. We all made it out safe.’ I just needed that perspective.”

Six families totaling eleven people live in the Rescue Mission’s apartment building, known as the Agape House. Service Pro, of Chambersburg, met with Dietrick Monday to evaluate the building.

Single mothers who have no other place to live call Agape home. Each family is given their own apartment, and this summer the Rescue Mission spent approximately $100,000 to upgrade the plumbing and electrical systems, as well as install an interconnected smoke alarm system.

“We give everybody the key to their own apartment,” Dietrick said. “What is interesting is we try to keep the location of our homeless shelters undisclosed because it protects our families. I guess it doesn’t matter now, because everyone else knows.”

Rebuilding Agape House after a fire will not be new to Dietrick. It was severely damaged in a Jan. 31, 2004 blaze that also damaged the Ragged Edge and the house at 116 Chambersburg Street. An apartment building that once occupied the lot that now houses the replica Civil War chapel was completely destroyed. It sat vacant until purchased by the United States Christian Commission in 2006.

“We took quite a beating back then, too,” Dietrick said. “Actually, I would have to say this fire caused more damage. There is definitely more damage now. It took us quite a while (to rebuild in 2004). I think it was four or five months.”

The community has reached out to help those affected by the fire.

Donations to rebuild the chapel, owned by the United States Christian Commission, can be made at . Contributions for the Agape House can be sent to: Adams County Rescue Mission, 2515 York Road, Gettysburg, PA 17325. Dietrick asked that “Fire Fund” be written in the memo line of checks so the Mission knows where to allocate the donations.

The Wyndham Hotel in Gettysburg reached out to Dietrick and offered rooms for Agape residents at $49 per night.

“That’s great, that’s a real good price but you times that by six families, it will kill you,” he said.

Dietrick said the Rescue Mission’s York Road, Straban Township; facility is for men only and is also full. Women from the Agape House have gone to the Mission’s thrift store and attempted to replace personal effects destroyed by the fire.

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  • lakedog posted at 3:38 pm on Wed, Dec 8, 2010.

    lakedog Posts: 12

    Selected Adams County Parcels Feature
    Parcel ID 16007-0278---998
    First Name
    Property Location 114 CHAMBERSBURG ST
    Lot No.
    Municipality GETTYSBURG
    School District G
    Sale Date 1996-04-30
    Deeded Acres 0.06

  • ltownmomof3 posted at 2:37 pm on Wed, Dec 8, 2010.

    ltownmomof3 Posts: 16

    ThirdWard, I'm sorry I didn't know that they already had it.[wink]

  • ThirdWard posted at 9:57 am on Wed, Dec 8, 2010.

    ThirdWard Posts: 3

    Griz, check the record.

    The borough council granted permits and permission for the initial deck and canvas tent set up that Mr. Wega built. However, the council did not grant permission for the more permanent wood structure that replaced the deck and canvas after a few years.

    The initial permit does not cover all construction ever. It only covers one project at a time, and a second permit should have been sought for the ensuing improvements to the site.

  • AmazinGrace posted at 10:37 pm on Tue, Dec 7, 2010.

    AmazinGrace Posts: 142

    The photograph of the child's crib makes my blood run cold. What were the people who did this thinking, for the love of God? I shudder to think what could have happened. I hope they are caught and punished to the fullest extent of the law. And where are the parents of these 3 white teen-age males? Why are these kids out at 3 in the morning?

  • grizwald713 posted at 10:18 pm on Tue, Dec 7, 2010.

    grizwald713 Posts: 47

    Yo navybitch, you had better check those records you refer to. You are incorrect.
    And to ThirdWard... the borough council gave Mr. Wega permission to build this chapel as well.

  • Navybitch posted at 7:28 pm on Tue, Dec 7, 2010.

    Navybitch Posts: 3

    Thirdward, The Christian Commission owns that property. Check the land records.

  • sjguy posted at 11:33 am on Tue, Dec 7, 2010.

    sjguy Posts: 142

    The FEDS have methods at their disposal to catch the bad guys that the average citizen can't begin to imagine. Now'll lets see if they use them.

  • ThirdWard posted at 9:29 am on Tue, Dec 7, 2010.

    ThirdWard Posts: 3

    Ltownmom.... the Rescue Mission already owns the property to the front. They were the ones that gave permission to the chapel to "build" their "temporary structure."

  • ltownmomof3 posted at 7:54 am on Tue, Dec 7, 2010.

    ltownmomof3 Posts: 16

    My family used to be in that first window on bottom floor on left. Thanks rescue mission for helping us in our time of need a few yrs. ago. I can't imagine the horror and sadness all the homeless people in there are feeling. I know if that was our family, I would be lost.[sad] Rescue Mission if you read this comment somehow you should somehow pull money together or do a collection and buy the property in front of you. To expand your shelter.[beam] That way no more fires would shut you down or the other places. But, this is my opinion. But, to those who did this my God have mercy on your soul. This is going to be on your mind for the rest of your life. They will find you. Since it is a Fed. crime your life as adults will be over. But, Rescue Mission, thanks for keeping my family warm a few winters ago.

  • MarkinGB posted at 4:48 pm on Mon, Dec 6, 2010.

    MarkinGB Posts: 74

    Arson is a horrible, horrible crime. Once started, no one can know how that fire will burn or who will be endangered. Let's hope the find the culprit and send him/her up the river for a long, long time.

  • Heywood posted at 4:28 pm on Mon, Dec 6, 2010.

    Heywood Posts: 210

    Ok now lest find the person, make him squeel.....

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