SWISSVALE (KDKA) –- An 18-year-old who uses a wheelchair is dead after fire broke out early Saturday morning at a home in Swissvale.
The three-alarm blaze broke out around 7:45 a.m. along Calumet Street.
Neighbors say the wood-frame home was fully engulfed and people were jumping out second and third story windows.
“I saw one come out the window onto the porch and then he hung onto the gutter to jump from that little back porch into the back yard,” said Barbara McCutcheon, a neighbor.
“I saw another one jump out the second-floor front window and it was just an awful site,” said Ruth Cromie, a neighbor. “From there it was nothing but chaos.”
One neighbor says he broke the fall of a girl who came down from the third floor.
“I screamed at her that she had to jump. She said she was afraid; she didn’t want to, but eventually she started to come out and she was hanging at the ledge of the window,” said Richard Werner, a neighbor. “As she came down, I saw that she was going to bounce off the porch roof, and I knew that that wasn’t going to be good enough, so I stood there and she landed on top of me.”
All but one of the occupants got out.
An 18-year-old man who uses a wheelchair didn’t have the mobility to escape, and firefighters didn’t have much opportunity to get to him.
“At one point, the fire was getting a little out of control,” said Deputy Chief David Miller, of the Swissvale Fire Department. “We did evacuate all firefighters. We hit it from the outside to knock it down for their safety, and once it was safe to go back in, we re-entered the building to fight the rest of the fire.”
But it was too late to save the resident who was wheelchair bound. Officials say he died on the first floor.