HOMESTEAD (KDKA) — New details are emerging about an arson suspect, one day after his arrest following a fire that destroyed nearly an entire city block in Homestead.
Edward McDonald, 27, is accused of starting a massive fire early Friday morning in Homestead that destroyed five buildings and displaced nine residents.
According to police, McDonald reportedly told neighbors he was depressed, heard voices and was worried about the end of the world.
Authorities in Homestead knew about mental problems. KDKA is told that McDonald even tried to get help at Western Psych.
“He couldn’t admit himself because you have to do something serious for them to admit you,” said Homestead Mayor Betty Esper. “Well, he did something serious.”
According to the criminal complaint, McDonald told police he squirted lighter fluid on a couch and that it resembled “a lake of fire.” One building after another was engulfed by a huge wall of flames.
One day later, three of the buildings are now leveled and two are left standing, including the apartment building owned by Shirley Anderson. She says she holds no grudge against McDonald.
“All I know is I feel sorry for him, and we have to pray for him because there’s a lot of people out here like that,” said Anderson.
Anderson was the first African American to buy real estate on 8th Avenue in 1986. She borrowed 245,000 from HUD to remodel the apartments above her salon. Now, she’s uncertain about the future.
“I’m 78; I’ve been in business 59 years. Do I want to continue, I don’t know,” she said.
Two people were treated for smoke inhalation.
Mayor Esper is thankful no one was killed. She also praised dozens of firefighters from 28 departments, along with the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, the Salvation Army, Red Cross and countless others who offered help.
“The chief and I said that last night we couldn’t believe how many people came together to help the small town and I want to thank them all. I appreciate it,” Mayor Esper said.
The Allegheny County Fire Marshal has estimated the damage in excess of $2 million.
Also, officials say they will bring in heavy equipment overnight to take down the front of one of the destroyed structures in order to open up the affected block of E. 8th Avenue.
A fundraiser will be held next week for the victims of the fire.
The event will be held at “Stay Tuned Distillery” at the historic John Munhall Neighborhood House on Saturday, Jan 31 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. There will be entertainment, food and drinks.
If you’d like to help:
Checks can be made out to ANEW/ACORN International with “Homestead Family Relief” written in the memo line and mailed to ANEW Community Institute, PO BOX 533, Homestead, Pa. 15120.
Tickets to the event can be purchased at this link. For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/1503870973226532/
The $25 admission fee gets you food and drinks, proceeds benefit the fire victims.