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3 injured in early morning New Ken fire

Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 9:39 a.m.

A New Kensington man who jumped from his burning house early Wednesday was listed in good condition in a Pittsburgh hospital hours after the blaze.

The situation seemed much more dire about 4:20 a.m. when Matthew Bertles, 54, of 1231 Victoria Ave., realized his house was on fire.

First Assistant Fire Chief Ed Saliba Jr. said Bertles jumped from a window or porch of his three-story house before firefighters arrived. No one else was inside, but several of Bertles' pets are thought to have died, Saliba said.

Firefighters saw flames leaping from the roof, windows and doors of Bertles' house, threatening to burn the house next door at 1227 Victoria Ave.

A family of seven was able to flee the neighboring house after they heard banging on their doors, even before their smoke detectors started to sound.

“New Kensington police Officers (Kevin) Hess and (Matt) Saxon helped to get them out,” Saliba said.

Firefighters Gary Harrison of Arnold and Bratton “Whitey” Williams of New Kensington were injured by falling bricks and other debris when an outside wall collapsed. Both men were treated and released from Allegheny Valley Hospital in Harrison before noon.

Bertles was taken to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he was listed in good condition about 2 p.m. and was to be transferred from a trauma unit.

By daylight it was clear the Bertles house was rubble. The second house had been reduced to a smoking hulk where Michael Reid, Tina Myer and five children — ranging in age from 1 to 15 — lived until Wednesday.

“We are all sleeping,” Reid said. “Then I heard someone yelling and pounding on the door.”

As Reid approached the door, ”You could feel the heat from next door. It was something,” he said.

The fire next door made the interior of 1227 Victoria Ave. strangely bright, Myer said.

“We grabbed the kids and rolled out of there,” she said.

Property owner Greg Medlang of Monroeville said he is looking for a replacement house for the family.

“They are a good family. They lived at one of my smaller houses and moved into this one in November,” Medlang said.

Myer said the family enjoyed living in the house: “It had enough bedrooms and two full bathrooms. Everything. And now this.”

The family was able to get some smaller items from inside the house.

Deputy state police fire marshal Trooper Kevin Karwatsky said the damage was so severe at Bertles' house that the cause of the fire is listed as “undetermined.”

The American Red Cross is assisting both families.

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



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