UNION CITY — A Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal has determined that a malfunctioning heater caused a fire that heavily damaged a two-family apartment house on Washington Street Tuesday afternoon.

“There was a faulty heater in the utility room in the back of the apartment where all the damage was done,” said Mark Allen, safety officer with the Union City Volunteer Fire Department.

The accidental fire started just before noon at 16 1/2 Washington St., the two-story apartment on the south side of the building.

The apartment sustained fire, smoke and water damage, leaving a mother and father and their two young children without a home. The American Red Cross is helping the family find a new place to live, Allen said.

Damage to the apartment could exceed $30,000, Allen said.

An adjoining apartment at 16 Washington St. suffered smoke and water damage, prompting the dwelling’s lone resident to move out of the building after the fire, Allen said.

It was originally reported that three people lived at 16 Washington St., but two former occupants had recently moved out, Allen said.

The two-story, wooden-framed house is owned by Tony Wienczkowski of Union City, Allen said.

Six area fire companies fought the fire.

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