No cause found yet in fire at Bethel Park's Cool Springs Golf Center


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Just days after it closed for the season and weeks before a scheduled sheriff's sale, a financially unsteady recreation center in Bethel Park caught fire Thursday morning, and investigators are trying to determine what caused the blaze.

No injuries were reported in the two-alarm fire at the Cool Springs Golf Center garage, which officials said was reported shortly after 8:30 a.m.

"It's way too early to make a determination one way or another," said Allegheny County deputy fire marshal Gene Stouffer of what caused the fire. "There's a lot of damage in there."

The property on Hamilton Road was up for an Oct. 7 sheriff's sale, with a $1.4 million debt owed, Sgt. Richard Fersch, who oversees the sales at the sheriff's office, said.

William Merchant, an attorney for S&T Bank, did not return messages for comment. Sgt. Fersch said the bank and its lawyer will decide if the sale proceeds.

Court records show the property's owner, Loft, in Mt. Lebanon, defaulted on a $2.55 million loan issued by S&T Bank in January 2003. No one answered the door in Suite 403 at 250 Mt. Lebanon Blvd., an address listed for the company, and officials could not be reached.

The center, which includes a driving range, miniature golf, batting cages, snack bar and a pro shop, also closed abruptly March 5 of this year because of financial problems, but reopened in time for summer.

Bethel Park fire Chief Dave Gerber said the owners were working on selling the property and that it closed on or about Sunday.

Bethel Park police Sgt. Kirke McLain said a passing driver called to report the fire Thursday morning, as did an employee who was scheduled to be at the golf center in the morning.

The gas had been turned off, but the electric was still on, the fire chief said.

Sgt. McLain said a tractor and an electric golf cart were inside the garage and added that many of the items normally stored there had already been removed.

Firefighters had some problems getting water from a hydrant, but they were able to contain the fire mostly to the garage. When crews arrived, the fire was moving to the attached pro shop and flames were going through the roof, Chief Gerber said.

Golf balls dotted the ground outside the charred walls of the garage as fire investigators surveyed the damage. Estimates were not available Thursday.

Because it was a commercial structure fire, representatives from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives were called to the scene, Mr. Stouffer said.

The 2013 assessed property value is $1.14 million, Allegheny County property assessment records show.

breaking - neigh_south

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944. Twitter: @borntolede. First Published September 19, 2013 1:30 PM


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