NORTH HUNTINGDON TOWNSHIP (KDKA) – A disabled veteran was killed in an early Tuesday morning mobile home fire in Westmoreland County.
According to officials at the scene, the fire broke out around 4 a.m. on Maryland Lane in North Huntingdon Township.
A friend prayed as the body of 63-year-old Dale Shields was removed from the burned shell of his home.
Family, including his kids, live across the street and watched as crews worked through the ashes. When fire crews were just arriving on scene, neighbors were told to evacuate from their nearby homes and were worried that Shields was not able to make it out.
“[They] said you need to get out, the trailer next to you is on fire. I said, ‘Oh my God, the man is handicapped. Did anyone get to him?’” Rick Smith said.
Friends said Shields lost his leg a few years ago, after having injured it while serving in Vietnam and again in a recent accident. He had been using a wheelchair following the accident.
Fire Chief Sean Oskin said when crews were finally able to subdue the flames, they found Shields unresponsive in the living room.
“Probably about five feet from the front door,” Chief Oskin said.
“It’s terrible. I feel so bad for the family and what happened,” Justin Konchak said.
Friends say that about a week ago, Shields was put on oxygen, which is believed to have intensified and fueled the fire.
“Before the fire department got here, he had oxygen, and it exploded,” Smith said.
Friends and neighbors said Shields will be remembered as a dedicated father and a proud veteran.