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Family of 6 loses everything in Vandergrift fire

| Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 11:33 a.m.
Firefighters work to extinguish flames at a Vandergrift home on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Firefighters ventilate the scene of a residential structure fire in Vandergrift on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Shane Haltiner watches as firefighters ventilate his Vandergrift home after it caught fire on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

A Vandergrift couple and their four young children are homeless following a fast-moving fire at their Hawthorne Street home on Thursday afternoon.

Resident Britnee Shaulis, 25, said she came downstairs shortly before 4 p.m. and saw a small fire on their live Christmas tree.

“It was a little tiny fire and my friend tried to drag it out, but it went up so fast,” Shaulis said. “I grabbed my three kids, I carried them all at once, and ran out.”

By 4:30 p.m., the two-story house was gutted.

She and her children, ages 1 to 5, were not injured. A fourth child also lived there, but wasn't home at the time of the fire.

As Shaulis and her husband, Shane Haltiner, 26, stood outside a friend's house looking at the shell of their home, Shaulis worried about her children.

“My kids don‘t even have shoes,” she said. “They have the outfits they were wearing.

“I don't know what we're going to do,” she said, as tears streamed down her face.

“Everyone is OK. That's what I was worried about,” said Haltiner, trying to console his wife. “That stuff doesn't matter.”

Vandergrift fire Chief Steve Potoka said the flames likely spread to a nearby entertainment center, out the window and up to the roof.

Kimberly Coleman, who lives across the street in the Carriage Dale Apartments, said she heard a loud pop and looked out her window to see the house on fire.

“There were flames just pouring out of it,” she said.

Potoka said he planned to contact the American Red Cross to request assistance for the family.

Haltiner said they'd likely spend the night with relatives.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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