HOMESTEAD (KDKA) – An early morning fire in Homestead last month led to more than $2 million in damage.

It destroyed businesses and forced nine people to find another place to live.

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On Tuesday, the city met with the victims to discuss the services available to help them get back on their feet.

One of the woman who had to be pulled to safety from the fire was in attendance.

“Our goal is to make sure, we don’t allow what happened here to fall through the cracks,” State Sen. Jay Costa said.

Costa and dozens of local social services and emergency response leaders say they are committed to getting Homestead and its people back on their feet.

The seven-alarm fire last month destroyed several buildings along Homestead’s main drag.

It almost cost Renee Gudukas her life.

“All of a sudden, the lights cracked out and fizzled, and I thought, ‘That’s strange,’” she said. “There was nothing I could do. I could see my only way out was to go to the window.”

That’s what she did, screaming for help from a second story window.

“Thank God, the firemen came within a few minutes and they came up the ladder to get me. I was so scared. I was on the verge of passing out,” she said.

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The firefighters carried her down the ladder to safety and she was taken to UPMC Mercy Hospital, where she has spent the past two weeks.

She is recovering from a collapsed lung.

Renee said she was friends with Eddie McDonald, the man accused of setting the fire.

“I just think it’s really, really tragic that he tried to get help, but it still does not excuse what he did,” she said. “He created so much damage, it’s just unbelievable.”

McDonald was ruled not fit to stand trial. He is currently in a psychiatric hospital being evaluated.

Meanwhile, Homestead says it is ready to move forward, in replacing the destroyed buildings.
“Worst case scenario, we make it a green space for the next couple of months. It’s an opportunity, it’s a challenge, but mainly an opportunity, to see how we can continue to work on Main Street,” Costa said.

Various organizations have pitched in to help the victims of the fire with food, groceries and clothing.

The victims, and Mayor Betty Esper, say the toughest challenge is finding the victims new housing.

Esper asks that all donations for the fire victims be made through the Salvation Army, who will set aside the goods and money for the fire victims.

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