Kris B. Mamula
Dec. 18—Neighbors in Brighton Heights awoke early Saturday to screaming, flames and a wall of smoke as a raging fire destroyed a three-story brick home, killing a 19-year-old man and two children, one of whom was scheduled to start school Monday.
The fire in the five-bedroom house erupted about 2 a.m. in the 3400 block of McClure Avenue, a house that Allegheny County property records indicate was built in 1880. The heaviest damage was to the upper floors, including a collapsed roof.
“We heard screaming,” next door neighbor Dave Pawlack, 35, said early Saturday. “There were massive flames going on everywhere.”
Another neighbor, who asked not to be identified, described the blaze as “terrifying.”
“There was so much smoke,” she said.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner identified one victim as 19-year-old Dijion Hutchinson. A Pittsburgh Public Schools spokeswoman said the two children killed in the fire were in the process of registering for classes, with one scheduled to start Monday.
“Our thoughts are with all who knew them during this difficult time,” schools spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said.
It was the second fire in five days in which two children died. A blaze early Tuesday in Sewickley took the lives of two children who attended Edgeworth Elementary in the Quaker Valley School District. Lyric Keys, 9, was in third grade, and her brother, 6-year-old Wylde Lightner, was in first grade.
As a result of Saturday’s fire, an adult woman was transported to a hospital in serious but stable condition. A second woman and eight other children were safely evacuated from the home.
As firefighters battled the flames, three people were still unaccounted for. Rescuers later found the bodies of the two children and Mr. Hutchinson inside the residence.
“They were notified that there were three people missing, they went into rescue mode to make a rescue, but the fire conditions prevented that, and unfortunately we lost three people in this fire,” Fire Chief Darryl Jones told Post-Gazette news partner KDKA-TV.
The American Red Cross was assisting those who escaped the blaze.
Medics transported a firefighter to a hospital for treatment of a cut on the arm.
The city Fire Investigation Unit was trying to determine what caused the blaze. It was unclear Saturday whether the structure had been broken up into apartments, but the building had just one mailbox and was served by a single gas meter.
Allegheny County property records show that the house had five bedrooms and was built in 1880.
In a statement posted to his Facebook page, Mayor Ed Gainey wrote: “Please join me in praying for the family whose lives will never be the same after losing three children last night in a fire.”
The city and county recorded other fatal fires during the past week.
Last Sunday, 80-year-old Barbara Johnson died in a fire at the high-rise Roosevelt apartment building Downtown.
And Kevin Prince, 60, died at a hospital Monday morning, a little more than an hour after a fire was reported at the Brinton Towers building on Locust Street in North Braddock.
Causes of those blazes have not been announced.
Also early Saturday, the Red Cross responded to a separate North Side incident in which a vehicle struck a home and displaced eight people on Woodland Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Marshall-Shadeland neighborhood.
Kris B. Mamula: firstname.lastname@example.org
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