Efforts to rid a Pennsylvania town of snakes were undone by arsonists. Two people were arrested Thursday for setting a hillside home on fire, destroying the living room and entombing five “three-legged” snakes. Authorities said the fire likely spread quickly because they use a peroxide gas can as a last resort to contain snakes.
Martin P. Paulson, 66, and Lora A. Itner, 50, both of Edwardsville, were charged with arson and reckless endangerment in connection with the fire at their home in Millerport Township, roughly 80 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.
A story on KSBW.com’s website said there was a trailer in the woods behind the burned house, in the southern part of the state, because of some snakes there. They added that fire officials suspect those snakes may have been the ones burned in the blaze.
“Everybody’s like ‘Oh my God, are they dead?’ And the answer is no, they’re not,” Paulson’s brother John, who lives next door, told the CBS affiliate in Phoenix, Arizona. “They thought it was going to be a 3-legged snake, and the sun came up, and there were all five and they’re all gone.”
“I don’t think they understood what it was about,” John Paulson added. “They were trying to get rid of snakes. Instead, they burned down their house.”
Firefighters found the home “intentionally set on fire,” according to Pa. State Police, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. Police said the couple had tried for months to rid themselves of snakes.
Besides the snakes, there were other snakes in the house, including a carpet python, but they survived, authorities said. Paulson’s brother told CBS affiliate KDKA-TV that his brother kept the snakes for about 10 years before the incident.
The ordeal cost $300,000 to $400,000 to repair, but fire officials said most of that could be recovered from insurance companies.