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Greensburg apartment fire blankets portions of city in smoke

| Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 6:36 p.m.
Patrick Varine
Firefighters at the scene of an apartment building fire on West Pittsburgh Street in Greensburg on Wednesday, April 19, 2017.
Patrick Varine
A wheelchair sits empty near an apartment building damaged by fire on West Pittsburgh Street in Greensburg on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. The owner of the wheelchair escaped the fire with his dog and was taken away by ambulance.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
On the left, a tenant in the West Pittsburgh Street apartment complex that was gutted by fire on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, talks with friends and neighbors.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Above, smoke pours from an apartment complex on the 200 block of West Pittsburgh Street in Greensburg on Wednesday, April 19, 2017.
Fire crews and emergency responders at the scene at an apartment building fire on West Pittsburgh Street in Greensburg on Wednesday, April 19, 2017.
Fire crews and emergency responders at the scene of an apartment building fire on West Pittsburgh Street in Greensburg on Wednesday, April 19, 2017.
patrick varine
Flames shoot through the roof of an apartment building on West Pittsburgh Street in Greensburg on Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

George Plows of Greensburg smelled smoke as he stepped out onto the porch of his Brown Avenue home on Wednesday evening. As he looked up the block, he saw a neighbor's apartment on fire.

“I stepped out onto the porch around 6 p.m., then I noticed the bottom apartment was fully involved in flames,” Plows said.

A three-apartment complex on the 200 block of West Pittsburgh Street was gutted by fire Wednesday evening. Smoke blanketed downtown Greensburg as it poured from the roof and upstairs windows of the complex.

The downstairs tenant, who uses a wheelchair, was taken from the scene by ambulance after escaping with his dog.

“I think he got a good whiff of smoke,” Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tom Bell said.

Bell said a cause for the blaze had not been determined. Reports of a firefighter being injured could not be confirmed.

Tenant Craig Eichler, who has lived in the building for the past 12 years, said this is the third time he's lost all his possessions in a fire.

“I got the clothes on my back and a jacket I was able to grab,” Eichler said. “I just got myself out of debt and got my head above water, and now I'm right back where I started.”

The building is owned by Heather Schultheis, a realtor with RE/MAX in Murrysville. She said the property is likely a “total loss.”

Fire crews from Greensburg, Grapeville, Latrobe, Irwin and Hempfield were on the scene. The building was visibly smoldering into the evening, and several streets in the area remained closed.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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