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Irwin fireman, police officers rescue man from apartment blaze

Paul Peirce
| Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, 5:03 a.m.

Three Irwin policemen and a borough fireman are credited with rescuing a 63-year-old man from his burning apartment at a popular tavern Wednesday.

Off-duty officer and firefighter Scott Urias, firefighter R.J. Swenson and officers Adam Painter and Daniel Wensel entered a burning apartment above Frank & Tucci's tavern at 211 Oak St. and carried James Gehrling to safety, authorities said.

Police said the cause of the fire was Gehrling smoking in bed, and his mattress caught fire.

After Gehrling was pulled from the flames, he was taken by ambulance to UPMC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. He is recuperating “from severe burns to his legs,” Wensel said.

According to a police report, Wensel was on patrol in the area around 5:30 p.m. when he noticed a man with a fire extinguisher running around a corner outside the tavern. Wensel called Painter, who was on patrol nearby, and they quickly located the blaze in one of the apartments.

Painter and Wensel entered the building but couldn't find the source of the fire because of heavy smoke and were forced to retreat. Urias and Swenson were among the first firefighters to arrive and were equipped with protective fire gear and breathing apparatus, according to a police report.

Urias and Swenson went into the building and quickly located the source of the blaze, Wensel said.

“Gehrling was found in his apartment, lying in his bed. ... The mattress was on fire,” he said.

Urias and Swenson were able to extinguish the flames and, with Painter and Wensel's help, carried Gehrling from the building.

Painter and Wensel were examined at the scene by Irwin Ambulance personnel because of “minor lung irritation from breathing in smoke,” Wensel said.

Firefighters from several neighboring departments also responded to the blaze.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860, ppeirce@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.

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