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Leechburg home destroyed by fire

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By Chuck Biedka

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 9:50 a.m.

Only smudged brick walls, lingering smoke and memories remain after a fire raced through 355 Madison Ave., Leechburg, Tuesday morning, leaving its owner uninjured but homeless.

Next-door neighbor William Gatto said he saw homeowner Janel McKee, 46, leave about 8 a.m.

About 15 minutes later, McKee's nephew, Eddie Paul, looked out the window of his Campbell Avenue house about three blocks away as he was preparing to leave for work.

Smoke was roiling from the vicinity of his aunt's house, which is located at the end of a dead-end street. Paul rushed to the house and called 911.

When he heard sirens, Gatto looked up from his computer and saw flames leaping high from the roof of his neighbor's house.

Leechburg Fire Chief Tom Foster said no one was home when volunteers from five fire companies arrived soon after the 8:17 a.m. call.

“I saw flames when I started up the hill toward the house,” he said.

A state fire marshal will investigate the cause of the blaze, he said. A damage estimate wasn't available.

Firefighters used Leechburg's aerial truck to cascade water onto the burning roof. The blaze was contained in about a half-hour.

Everything was blackened, soddened, destroyed.No one was injured, but the 1960s ranch-style house was reduced to rubble.

McKee, a cook, sat in Gatto's front yard. Gatto's wife, Carol, retrieved a blanket for the stunned McKee who shivered, shook her head and quietly cried.

Paul and his mother, Glenda, tried to comfort McKee.Chief Foster said firefighters from Gilpin, West Leechburg, Hyde Park and Parks joined Leechburg volunteers to fight the fire.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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