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Gator accused of starting fire at abandoned school

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[March 07, 2009]  NEW CASTLE, Pa. (AP) -- A four-foot alligator rescued in an abandoned school on fire in western Pennsylvania may have also started the blaze.

North Beaver Township officials are not identifying the owner of the former elementary school that burned Thursday afternoon near New Castle, about 40 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

But they said the man was living with a menagerie of animals in the building, including the alligator, about 70 rabbits and unspecified "aquatic animals." The Pennsylvania Game Commission was involved in caring for the animal.

Fire Chief Paul Henry said the building's owner believes the alligator started the fire by knocking over a portable heater. Firefighters removed the animal, but only after taping its mouth shut.

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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