BRENTWOOD (KDKA) – One person was killed in an apparent explosion and subsequent fire in Brentwood on Thursday afternoon.
According to emergency dispatchers, the fire was reported along Hillman Street around 12:30 p.m.
“[A] loud boom and everything shook,” said neighbor Kevin Maloney.
After the boom, thick smoke and flames filled the Brentwood sky. Hillman Street was blocked off by firefighters, police and EMS crews.
“I heard a very loud boom. It shook the house. I immediately did a check of my place to make sure my wife and son were alright,” neighbor Daniel Bejster said. “Within a matter of a few seconds, I had turned around and the house up back behind the hill was on fire, so I threw my boots on and ran up the hill.”
Considering the damage, fire officials believe an explosion happened in the garage between two homes. The home to the right had to evacuate.
“Given a look at the scene, it appears that there was an explosion of some sort, and the fact that the garage is what impacted the most damage certainly will isolate our investigation to that area to try to confirm what that is,” Matt Brown, chief of emergency services, said.
Officials said a man was found dead inside the garage. Neighbors identify him as 56-year-old Michael Festa.
“He used to be one of the most popular bartenders at Jack’s in the South Side, so a lot of people know him,” said neighbor Sheree Whitfield.
Sheree Whitfield talked to KDKA’s Amy Wadas as restoration crews boarded up the homes. She has known Festa for many years. She said she just talked to him Wednesday.
“He would sit outside and smoke, talk to everyone walking by,” said Whitfield.
She said he leaves behind a wife and two kids.
“His wife was very nice. She was very friendly. They would always have big parties on the Fourth of July,” said Whitfield. “It’s going to be a struggle for them and for his wife.”
Two firefighters suffered some minor injuries during the fire. They were treated on scene and will be okay.
Peoples Gas was on scene earlier in the day to secure the gas lines. The spokesperson confirms that natural gas was not the cause of the explosion.
The Allegheny County Fire Marshal is looking into the cause.