OKLAHOMA BOROUGH (KDKA) — A massive fire destroyed the historic Belvedere Hotel early Wednesday morning in Westmoreland County.
Oklahoma Borough Fire Chief Don Polka said someone called 911 around midnight. But by the time firefighters arrived, flames had fully consumed the condemned building.
The Belvedere Hotel sat along Route 66 since 1905, but now it’s nothing more than a pile of charred wood.
Chief Polka said he believes the fire is suspicious, but the Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal is still investigating.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Amy Stoughton, employee at Naser Foods. “This has just been a landmark. When you pass it and come through here, you know you’re home.”
Stoughton stood and watched as a piece of Oklahoma Borough history smoldered early Wednesday morning.
“I hoped – everybody hoped – that would come back to life,” she said.
But it never did and now never well.
Naser Foods gave KDKA surveillance video that showed the exact moment the flames ignited.
“We got here and it was fully involved, so we got about 12 companies here,” said Chief Polka.
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He called the fire suspicious because “there was no utilities and everything was shut off. It was condemned and no one’s lived in it for about two years.”
Chief Polka said the borough wanted to raise money to tear it down, but couldn’t find the funds.
“It was a very dilapidated building that was caving in, and they were worried about it collapsing, that’s how bad it was,” said Chief Polka.
The Fire Marshal told KDKA he believes the fire originated from near the hotel’s front door, but said this is still very early in the investigation.
He also said all of the debris piled-up near the entrance was making it too difficult to find “solid concrete.” He requested PennDOT trucks come to the scene to help move some of the debris out of the way and also off of the roadway.
The Department of Environmental Protection was also called to the scene because the building was filled with asbestos. However, officials said there is no worry regarding any potential contamination as a result of asbestos following this fire.
Route 66 was closed for about seven hours, and Norfolk Southern suspended train traffic on the track that runs parallel.