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PENN HILLS (KDKA) — The bitter cold was one of many problems for Penn Hills firefighters at a Sunday morning house fire.

The call came in as a basement fire around 9:30 a.m., but the whole house in the 600 block of Sara Place was quickly engulfed in smoke and flames.

“By the time our first arriving units got here, the fire had spread from the basement up into the first floor and got up into the walls and got up into the roof,” Chief Al Wickline, of Penn Hills Fire Station 224, said.

Everyone got out safely. Firefighters say someone rescued an elderly man from the basement where he was sleeping. Then they ran into a water problem and had to find another fire hydrant.

“The fire hydrant down the street, we connected to that first, and then that wasn’t providing us with enough flow,” Wickline said.

Firefighters had to run a fire hose all the way down the street, along with all the other bad conditions they had to deal with that didn’t help fighting the fire.

penn hills fire Crews Battle Bitter Cold, Other Problems At Penn Hills House Fire

(Photo Credit: KDKA Photojournalist Paul Spradley)

There were also reports that the house was loaded with possessions that hampered the effort to control the fire. Firefighters overcame that problem, but they had to deal with the freeze.

Even though winds and temperatures were not as brutal as they were on Saturday, it was still pretty cold. A Port Authority bus was used as a warming station.

“You see the firefighters walking away from the building, their fire gear is all covered in ice from working with the water,” Wickline said. “It’s takes a serious toll, not only physically, but with the cold.”

When it was over, the damage was so bad you could see all the way through the structure.

The county fire marshal is investigating the cause. The Red Cross is assisting the family.

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