VANDERGRIFT (KDKA) – A fire sent one woman to the hospital, killed a family pet and left three families homeless when it destroyed an apartment building in Westmoreland County on Wednesday.
According to emergency dispatchers, the fire broke out in the 100 block of Jefferson Street in Vandergrift around 9 a.m.
The structure is a landmark in the neighborhood, and is known as the “Butterball” building.
In all, six apartments when up in flames, but only three had tenants. One of them was home when the flames and smoke started pouring from the building.
Jackie Broda was cleaning a home across the street when the dog started barking.
“I come outside and full-fledged billows of smoke just rolling out of the whole top of the building there,” said Broda. “Five fire departments, PA system going. It was a hot mess.”
The woman who was home at the time suffered burns to her foot when she tried to put the fire out herself. Neighbors tried to rescue her.
“By the time I got out to the back – smoke, black smoke,” said neighbor Diane Larrieu. “The fire had started blowing the windows out. And there was nothing that could be done.”
The woman made it out, but was hospitalized with burns and smoke inhalation. Sadly, her dog didn’t make it out.
“She had one little pet named Maggie, who was lost in the fire. It was, I was gonna go back in, but I saw flames,” said Larrieu. “I’m sorry for the dog.”
Fire officials say a candle was the cause of it all.
“Candles are good for scent and decoration. But people have to be aware, whenever you’re leaving, put them out, before you go to bed or leave the apartment. If you have pets, you’ve got to be careful,” said Chief Randy Dunmire, of Vandergrift No. 1 FD.
It took several area fire departments to get the fire put out.
The building’s been remodeled several times and has several different ceilings. That made it even more difficult to knock down the flames.