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Friends, neighbors help West View family recover from fire

James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Shelly and Chris Lightsey stand in the living room of their burned out home on Fairview Avenue in West View on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013.

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Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The fire that destroyed Shelly and Chris Lightsey's West View home on Jan. 20 moved quickly.

“The devastation is just more than you fathom. The kids are coping with it pretty well. Each day you cry a little less,” said Lightsey, who has spent much of the past 10 days shopping and talking with insurance adjusters.

If the fire spread fast, efforts to help her have been almost as quick — starting with Marianne Uechi, a friend who plans to put the Lightsey family, including four school-age children, up in her four-bedroom home.

“She had no coat, no shoes, no car keys, no phone. You just have to go through and itemize everything that you no longer have,” Uechi said.

Already home to five people, the Uechi family's West View house will add about a half-dozen more until Lightsey buys a new house, which she said could take as long as four months.

“The boys will share rooms. We can make this work,” Uechi said.

The fire started at 11 p.m. Lightsey, who was awake, had almost no time to get out of the house. No cause has been determined.

Since then, Lightsey has been overwhelmed with sorting out the details of what comes next.

Students at North Hills Junior High School, where Lightsey's eldest daughter, Sierra, is an eighth-grader, are conducting a raffle to raise money for the family.

“We were approached by a number of students, and they wanted a fundraiser instead of just taking donations,” said Franz Ratnavale, a counselor and student council adviser at the school.

Classmates expressed concern for Sierra.

“I live near her. We were driving home that night. There was a ton of smoke in the air. I felt really bad. But she came back to school right away. I was really proud of her,” said Megan Hitchan, 14, of Ross.

Two Penguins tickets and a Penguins jersey will be raffled.

“I'm hoping it will go well. It's a real tragic thing, this fire,” said Quinten Harkness, 13, of West View.

Teachers from West View Elementary School dropped off clothes for Lightsey and her children. Others donated furniture sets that people will store until they can be used.

“The fire is very sad. It's good the people are helping out so much,” said Maddie Evans, 14, of Ross, an eighth-grader at North Hills.

The elementary school's PTA donated one week of meals for the Lightsey and Uechi families, as did Hal's Bar & Grill of Ross.

“The community has been fantastic. The outpouring was great,” Lightsey said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at

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