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Fire Destroys Westmoreland Co. Gas & Towing Company

VANDERGRIFT (KDKA) – A Westmoreland County family is picking up the pieces after an intense fire ripped through their business early Sunday morning, destroying the gas and towing station.

Firefighters spent the early morning hours trying to stop the huge fire from ravaging Kochka's Towing and Car Care Center on Sherman Avenue in Vandergrift.

"There were flames shooting out of the roof; huge crowds gathering all around," said James Decker, a neighbor. "It woke half of Vandergrift up."

Decker says he heard the fire sirens around 1:40 a.m.

"Kochka's is a staple in this community," he added. "It's terrible to see this happen."

By daylight, the Kochka family got a chance to assess the damage to the more than 52-year-old business, started by owner Paul Kochka.

"My husband says he lost his baby," said Joyce Kochka. "He's been here all his life. He's 75-years-old."

"We'll get her going; we'll get it back up," said Kochka.

Family members could breathe a little easier because the flames did not spread to the gas pumps. But the convenience store and auto service center were nearly destroyed.

Owner Greg Kochka thinks the cause is suspicious.

"There was some damage to the one door before we got here," he said. "That's all that we know right at this time."

Meanwhile, Paul Kochka is heartened by the overwhelming support from the community.

"Can't believe the people helping us; they're everywhere," he said. "We've got 30, 40 people helping us."

Friends and family are salvaging what they can and shoring up the building to protect it from the elements.

Fortunately, the family says they have insurance, and they say it's just a matter of time before the landmark business reopens.

The fire marshal continues to investigate the cause. No injuries were reported.

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