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MCCANDLESS, Pa. (KDKA) — A massive fire forced residents out of their apartments and caused a roof collapse at an apartment complex in McCandless late Wednesday morning.
The four-alarm fire broke out just before 10 a.m. at the Durham Court complex on Babcock Boulevard.
It quickly became a day of ruin and rescue for the residents. Out of 60 units throughout the complex, 30 were destroyed in the fire.
As KDKA’s Brenda Waters reports, a lot of material things were lost in those 30 units — but lives were saved.
Resident Katie Seekford was in bed when the fire broke out. When she woke up, Seekford says she saw “flames shooting through the roof and the whole building engulfed.”
“There was no fire alarm, smoke detectors, nothing,” Seekford says. “I just smelled smoke — thankfully — and woke up to that.”
She says she ran to her balcony with just the clothes on her back and her cell phone in her hand. It was there she realized she needed help from firefighter to get to safety and away from the flames.
“I came out on the balcony,” Seekford explains, “and they rescued me with a ladder.”
Later in the afternoon, Austin Bennati and Tara Gillespie returned to see what they could salvage. She was at work when the fire broke out, he was on his way home.
When Bennati arrived, the building was engulfed in flames. But they did manage to get their pets out — a bird and a cat — and save some memories.
Namely, an antique chair and a mirror.
“Got these two things,” Gillespie says. “It’s all we have,” Bennati adds.
Salvaged furniture in hand, Gillespie explains, “That was my great grandmother’s chair, so I didn’t want to leave that in there.”
But everything else is gone. “It’s all caved in and wet in there,” Gillespie says.
All the people KDKA’s Brenda Waters spoke with had renter’s insurance.
They also say officials told them that they can return home tomorrow to see what else they can salvage.