INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Last August, Carmena Brooks could barely look at the charred ruin of her Washington County home without breaking down. A candle may have started that fire.

The foundation of the brick home, laid by her great-grandfather in the ‘20s, had sheltered Carmena and Brian Brooks and their seven children.

Now, almost exactly a year to the day of the last fire, unbelievably, the Brooks’ home has burned again.

It is beyond devastating for the family.

A burned shell is all that’s left. The house went up overnight, and Tuesday morning it was still smoldering. Carmena says firefighters told her this one was no accident.

“It was arson; that’s what they told me, it was arson,” said Carmena. “There was no electricity going to our house.”

They did find a nozzle from what might have been a container for accelerant, and beer cans by the front door. Recently, they’d begun moving building materials into the house – dry wall, insulation, lumber.

After the first fire, the community pitched in to help.

“People from all around the neighborhood made donations and helped whenever they needed,” said Pam Lodmell, a long-time friend of the family.

But earlier Tuesday night, Carmena says she was confronted by some neighbors on Longview Drive. She says four men blocked her car saying she was speeding. They called police who cited her for profanity and driving too fast.

“And I’m getting to think that it’s racially motivated,” she said.

“I think somebody doesn’t want them here,” added Lodmell.

Not only is Carmena coping with another fire, her husband is in a rehab facility. A month ago, Brian was critically injured in a car accident swerving to miss a deer.

Even so, Carmena continues to count her blessings.

“That’s all my blessings right there, my family. You got family, you got friends – that’s my blessings,” she said.

More Washington County News
More Reports by Mary Robb Jackson