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McKeesport teen questioned in fire

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 1:21 a.m.
McKeesport firefighter T. J. Perciavalle carries equipment, with help from police Lt. Art Pero and officer Fran Angert, during a Friday morning house fire at 2314 Cronemeyer Ave.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
McKeesport firefighter T. J. Perciavalle carries equipment, with help from police Lt. Art Pero and officer Fran Angert, during a Friday morning house fire at 2314 Cronemeyer Ave. Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News

A McKeesport teenager faced questioning on Friday night after his mother called firefighters to their home along the 700 block of Ridge Street.

City fire officials said they found a smoldering rag on top of cleaning supplies under a table, while the 15-year-old male was playing a video game in another room.

“We had moderate smoke conditions,” deputy fire Chief Vince Wassel said. “We removed the box with the cleaning supplies and found the 15-year-old was home by himself.”

Wassel said there was no damage other than to the cleaning supplies. At presstime the youth was being interviewed by city police and an Allegheny County fire marshal.

It was the second of two calls for city firefighters on Friday. The first, which damaged a home at 2314 Cronemeyer Ave., was ruled accidental by the county fire marshal.

Firefighters were called to the home shortly before 11:30 a.m., and by 11:40 dispatchers called in off-duty firefighters to help working crews extinguish the confirmed blaze.

Highland Avenue resident Wendy Bernath, who called 911, said she smelled smoke in the area for nearly an hour before realizing there was a fire.

“I kept looking outside, and I didn't see anything,” Bernath said. “The smell got stronger. I called for my husband, and we checked our house before looking around outside again.”

When she saw smoke coming from a second-floor window at 2314 Cronemeyer, Bernath contacted authorities. She and her husband did not see their neighbor's vehicle outside, but banged on the door in case anyone was home.

McKeesport Fire Chief Kevin Lust said the resident was at work at the time of the fire.

“The fire basically was contained in one room on the second floor,” Lust said. “It went up the wall into the attic, but didn't go through the roof.”

The blaze was under control within 30 minutes, and the scene was cleared early in the afternoon.

“It was a very quick knockdown,” Lust said. “Our crews did a very good job.”

Utilities have been turned off, and the man is staying with family.

Patrick Cloonan and Jennifer R. Vertullo are staff writers for Trib Total Media. They can be reached at 412-664-9161, Cloonan at ext. 1967 or pcloonan@tribweb.com, Vertullo at ext. 1956 or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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