By Mary Robb Jackson

LATROBE (KDKA) — A furious fire in a two-unit apartment building on Weldon Street in Latrobe started Wednesday night. Two men were injured and two cats died.

It re-kindled early Thursday morning. A charred wreck is all that’s left.

Latrobe Volunteer Fire Chief John Brasile said it was apparently started by a Christmas tree.

Shawn Bodge, who rented the upstairs unit, heard screams and ran down to get his neighbor, Rob Becker, out.

“Trying to break the glass with my fist and stuff I just cut a little bit of my knuckles,” he said.

There was no trace found of the 5-1/2-foot artificial tree. The chief believes it was likely overheating or a loose wire that sparked the fire.

By using power strips, surge protestors and sturdy cords, many holiday season fires are preventable.

“Take and inspect the wiring, the insulation, if there’s no cuts or bare wires,” Brasile said.

The newer LED lights are cooler and use less voltage. Traditional mini-lights are fine but look for the “UL” on the label. The Underwriters Laboratory is a non-profit that checks electronic products for safety.

Other safety tips:

  • If you’re buying an artificial tree, check for a “fire resistant label.”
  • With a fresh tree, the needles should be hard to pull from branches.
  • Live trees must be well-watered.
  • Keep trees away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters.
  • Don’t forget to unplug your tree and all your lights when you leave home.
  • “That’s the No. 1 cause,” Brasile said. “People think that it’s never going to happen to them.”

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