A black Labrador retriever pawed his hearing-impaired owner to alert him to a fire around 8:30 a.m. Friday that destroyed Valley Billiards LLC in Salem Township near New Alexandria.
The family-owned business along Route 119 had manufactured custom-made billiards tables for a half-century
Owner Burley Hartin, 79, estimated the loss at $250,000 and doesn’t believe he has enough insurance coverage to rebuild.
“We just purchased materials for five customers’ pool tables, and that’s gone. Two of the tables that were partially started and almost finished are gone too,” Hartin said. “The insurance we have won’t cover the losses.”
He said the fire could have started when an electrical box shorted out after water from the week’s heavy rains seeped into the building.
His son, Scott Hartin, 42, was the only employee in the building when the fire started, he said. Scott Hartin’s dog, Ram, started barking and pawing at him shortly after he arrived at work.
“The dog’s the one that alerted him that there was something wrong in the back. He went back and saw the fire,” Burley Hartin said.
Firefighters found a quarter of the building on the western side was engulfed when they arrived, and wind was blowing flames into the wood-frame structure, said Chief Bob Rosatti of the Forbes Road Volunteer Fire Department.
Firefighters were not able to enter the building and had to fight the blaze from the exterior. Heavy smoke could be seen for several miles.
Burley Hartin started the business in 1956 in Pitcairn and moved into the building near New Alexandria in 1988. The company also produces custom-made furniture and gaming accessories and supplies.
“It brings tears to my eyes,” Burley Hartin said. “To see 55 years down the drain is terrible. My son, whose hearing-impaired, has all his life for this. What’s he going to do? I have no idea at this point.”
Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.