NORTH BELLE VERNON (KDKA) — A state police fire marshal is expected back in Westmoreland County Tuesday to investigate the origin of several explosions and a fire that destroyed a home and sent the man living there to the hospital.
It happened just before 3 p.m. in the 800-block of Hill Street in North Belle Vernon Borough.
The man who was hurt is identified as 63-year-old Dave Lenhart. He has a medical condition and was on oxygen, according to Assistant Fire Chief John Garber of the North Belle Vernon Fire Department.
“The 63-year-old male that lived there had a medical history. He was on oxygen. The initial report of explosions were the oxygen tanks rupturing and not a gas explosion or anything,” said Garber.
Neighbor Tim Reinstadtler, who lives next door to the house that burned to the ground, told KDKA’s Ralph Iannotti, “People need to learn to quit smoking when they’re on oxygen.”
Chief Garber said a lack of fire hydrants in the neighborhood meant firefighters had to use pumpers to shuttle water to the scene.
There was little firefighters could do upon arrival, since the house was fully engulfed in flames when they got to the scene.
Lenhart’s best friend rushed to his side after the initial explosion rocked the neighborhood.
“Well, Dave was lying down. All the hair on his head was burned up, looked like he was blistered on the head, he had a cut under his arm,” said Tom Amati, the victim’s neighbor. “He was just saying, ‘Tommy, Tommy, help me.’ We’re best friends for about 50 years. And then I went to kneel down and then the EMTs and the ambulance came. He was conscious. He’s on disability, his endurance ain’t real great. I just hope he makes it okay.”
Lenhart was flown by medical helicopter to Allegheny General Hospital where he is listed in stable condition.
His dog also survived the fire, but was burned over 50 percent of his body.
Lenhart’s home was completely destroyed; all that’s left is rubble. Two other adjacent homes were also damaged by fire and water.