Wellsville couple, about 20 pets die in house fire

A neighbor described Debbie and Frank Pusateri as kind people who loved animals

A couple and more than 20 of their pets were killed Sunday morning in a fire.

WELLSVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) – A couple and more than 20 of their pets were killed Sunday morning in a fire.

The man and woman killed in the fire were identified as Debbie and Frank Pusateri. Investigators said six Huskies and about two dozen cats also died.

The fire happened around 8 a.m. at a home on Clark Avenue in Wellsville. Firefighters arrived to hear a smoke detector going off downstairs, but the couple was upstairs and overcome by smoke.

The Pusateris couldn’t get out of the house, and firefighters couldn’t get in.

“As far as you got into the window, you got maybe a foot inside and just couldn’t go anywhere,” said Wellsville Fire Chief Barry Podwel. “The guys, they just couldn’t see in. They ran into a box here, they ran into a cage.”

Various items in the home, including kitty litter and animal cages, made it difficult to navigate. The animals were trapped inside when the fire started.

Fred Joy has lived across the street for almost 20 years.

“They were great people, fantastic people, kind people, animal lovers — downright just loved animals,” Joy said.

The Pusateris raised Huskies. One of the dogs survived the fire.

Joy said the couple never had children, so they took in animals.

“They said they tried when they first got married, but they couldn’t have it, so they took their animals,” he said.

Podwel said it was a tragic situation. This is the first fatal fire that he can remember in Wellsville in over a decade.

The State Fire Marshal was called in to determine the cause of the fire. That investigation is ongoing.

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