By Ross Guidotti

SMOCK (KDKA) – A young man was able to escape a Thursday morning fire in Fayette County, but his mother was not.

According to emergency dispatchers, the fire broke out around 8:30 a.m. at a home in the 600-block of Bittner Road near Smock.

Neighbors saw flames and rushed to assist a young man inside.

Duane Stewart, who lives nearby, spotted the flames. He and several others neighbors wanted to help, but it was impossible.

Stewart said he was “trying to make sure nobody was in the house, and then kept yelling, but didn’t hear nobody.”

“Flames coming out the upper windows,” Smock VFC Fire Chief Tim Kelly said. “By the time we got here, it was out the bottom windows.”

The man, 22-year-old Brandon Richard, jumped out of a window onto the roof of a porch.

“One person was able to jump from an upstairs window on to the porch roof, and then down to the ground,” Chief Kelly said.

However, his mother, 44-year-old Sheila Porter, could not escape the fire.

Richard said he woke up because his dog was barking. When he realized the house was on fire, he yelled to his mother.

“He said, ‘I hollered at mom and said, [is] the house on fire, mom?’ She said yes, and said that was the last thing he heard,” said Stewart.

The State Police Fire Marshal was on scene trying to figure out how this fire started.

Chief Kelly says he already has an idea why it moved so fast, these homes were once heated by coal.

“All that coal dust in those walls – when they go up, they go up quick,” Chief Kelly said.

The home was a total loss. The damage is estimate set at $150,000.

State Police continue to investigate the cause of the fire. They have also asked pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht who performed the autopsy on Porter.

In a press release, state police say they are specifically looking for Porter’s cause of death, as well as any levels of carbon monoxide in her lungs or bloodstream.

In the past, investigators have used postmortem carbon monoxide levels to determine whether an individual was alive at the time of the fire.


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