Fire claims Wellsville couple and pets

Morning Journal/Tom Giambroni
A couple and about 20 pets perished after fire engulfed this Clark Avenue home in Wellsville Sunday morning. One dog was removed alive from the home. The fire was confined mostly to the front of the house, but it filled the rest of the residence with smoke. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, and the state fire marshal’s office was called in to assist.

Morning Journal/Tom Giambroni A couple and about 20 pets perished after fire engulfed this Clark Avenue home in Wellsville Sunday morning. One dog was removed alive from the home. The fire was confined mostly to the front of the house, but it filled the rest of the residence with smoke. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, and the state fire marshal’s office was called in to assist.

WELLSVILLE — A Sunday morning fire claimed the lives of a Clark Avenue couple and about 20 of their pets.

Dead are homeowners, E. Deboraha Pusateri, 63, and Frank A. Pusateri Jr., 65, according to Wade Boley, an investigator with the Columbiana County Coroner’s Office.

Village Fire Chief Barry Podwel said a neighbor called at 8:04 a.m. to report there were flames shooting out of the front of the two-story wood frame home at 1605 Clark Ave. Podwel said the home was fully engulfed in flames by the time the first firefighters arrived at the scene, which resulted in an immediate call for assistance, with the Highlandtown and Liverpool Township fire departments responding.

The couple was later found lying in bed in their second-story bedroom located at the rear of the house. Police were reportedly the first on the scene and went to the rear of the home but were unable to make entry because of the heat and smoke.

Podwel said it took a while to bring the fire under control to where firefighters could begin searching the home. He said their efforts were impeded by boxes founding sitting everywhere, along with numerous animal cages that housed about 20 cats and dogs. Only one pet, a dog, survived.

“There was a problem trying to get around all the cages and boxes,” he said.

The fire was confined mostly to the front of the house, but it filled the rest of the residence with smoke, which is probably what killed the couple. “There was no sign of foul play, and they likely died from smoke inhalation,” Boley said.

The bodies were sent to the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office for autopsies, and he said they will not know the official cause of death until the test results are received.

Podwel said the cause of the fire remains under investigation, and the state fire marshal’s office was called in to assist.

Also assisting was the Irondale Fire Department, which staffed the Wellsville Fire Station in the event there was another fire in town while firefighters were still occupied at Clark Avenue.

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