A man died in a fire Wednesday night that destroyed a bar and an ice cream stand on East Market Street in Blairsville.
The Indiana County coroner identified the victim as Paul Eugene Tressler, 68, of Blairsville, who was found in the rubble of the bar. Investigators have not determined why Mr. Tressler did not leave the building with other patrons. An autopsy is set for today.
Officials brought in heavy equipment Thursday morning to remove the debris, and Mr. Tressler’s body was found about 10 a.m.
One dead in fire that destroyed Blairsville restaurant
The fire started at Sharon's Bar and spread to Chaek's Window Ice Cream Stand. Neighboring buildings were damaged by water and smoke. (Video by Darrell Sapp; 7/31/2014)
The fire started about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sharon's Restaurant & Lounge and spread to Chaek’s Window, an ice cream stand next door. Neighboring buildings were damaged by smoke and water.
Firefighters battled the blaze for four hours before bringing it under control, said Blairsville police Officer Dave Romagnoli, who was among the first on the scene.
Carol and Dave Chaek, along with their adult son, Dave, have operated the ice cream business for 35 years. Their son also operates a photography studio and sign shop next door.
After hearing yelling, the father and son rushed to the bar with fire extinguishers, but the fire was already out of control, they said. Firefighters quickly arrived.
“They saved our livelihood for us,” said the elder Mr. Chaek, referring to the firefighters’ ability to stop the fire from spreading farther. “If we had lost both businesses, we would have absolutely nothing.”
Investigators had not confirmed the cause of the fire, but the coroner’s report said people inside the bar said the business was closing for the evening when the fire was sparked by a deep fryer that became too hot and boiled over.
Matt Sabella of Bucks County grew up in Blairsville and had returned for a visit. “I have a lot of memories of going [to the ice cream stand] as a kid and bringing my own kids,” he said. Other bystanders agreed that the stand was a neighborhood staple and had provided many teenagers with jobs over the years.
Mr. Chaek said his family probably would rebuild the stand, which was insured.
Firefighters from Blairsville, Black Lick, Coral-Graceton, Homer City and Derry fought the fire.
Funeral arrangements for Mr. Tressler, who lived on Shady Hollow Road, were incomplete, Coroner Jerry L. Overman Jr. said.
Albert Anderson: aanderson @post-gazette.com or 412-263-1454. First Published July 31, 2014 12:00 AM