Steel Valley 'Angels' act to assure family's safety
Two Barrett Elementary teachers went far beyond their job description this week when they ran into a burning house in Homestead to check for occupants.
Just as their after-school math tutoring program was ending on Tuesday at approximately 3:30 p.m., Sue Wilder and Carole Policastro saw and smelled smoke as they were walking students out of the school at 221 E. Twelfth Ave.
“As we were exiting, the kids were saying, ‘Where's all the smoke coming from?'” Wilder said. “I thought that it may have been a car exhaust. I kept looking and there was no car. I looked up at the building and there was smoke coming out. I thought there's no way there's a furnace vent up there. I kept watching and I saw a flicker and then flames started to shoot out.”
She called 911 and ran across the street to the house at 204 E. Twelfth Ave. and pounded on the door. Wilder said no one answered, but she was able to open the door.
“The TV was on so I panicked,” she said. “I went through the downstairs and no one was there. I ran upstairs into the bedroom where the outside of the window was on fire. I could see the flames starting to come up over the windowsill. There was no one upstairs. I ran downstairs to the basement and the light was on. No one was there.”
Policastro, who was unaware that Wilder had entered the house, also went in to look through the rooms and in the cupboards.
“I think the thing that startled us most is the TV was on and the door was open,” Policastro said. “So at that point, somebody had to be in there.”
She said people on the street were yelling the names of the residents.
Wilder said one of the residents is a second-grader in Barrett teacher Jonette Bost's class, but she didn't know that at the time of the fire.
Bost was helping out during the after-school program and contacted the student's mother about the fire.
“Jonette really did take good care of the little boy,” Wilder said.
She said Bost comforted the student and his family when they returned to their home.
“She is probably one of the best nurturing teachers here,” Policastro said. “She is compassionate and supportive.”
She said Bost made sure the family had something to eat and gave them gift cards she had in her wallet.
“The little boy's biggest concern was that he wasn't going to have his homework for me this week because his book bag was in his room,” Bost said. “He worried that his chocolate bunny melted in the fire.”
Policastro said the teachers have been asked if they were worried about their own safety.
“We all felt safe going in,” she said. “We saw that it was contained.”
“It was at its beginning stages,” Wilder said.
“I'm really proud of our staff members and their heroic efforts to help a family in crisis and in need,” Barrett Elementary principal Sharon Fisher said.
Policastro joked that Wilder, Bost and she were “Barrett's Angels,” a reference to TV and movie heroines “Charlie's Angels.”
The fire is under investigation by the Allegheny County Fire Marshal's Office. The American Red Cross is assisting three adults and four children with food, shelter and clothing.
Stacy Lee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1970, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Elizabeth Township to pay for road paving study
- Charges held against suspect in McKeesport market robbery, assault
- McKeesport man accused of firing at child to stand trial
- McKeesport man charged with sex assault on 13-year-old girl
- Erie attorney named trustee for bankrupt Homestead Cemetery
- Ankle replacement makes UPMC McKeesport history
- East Allegheny may meet this week with education association
- Student ‘geek squad’ to help train Steel Valley classmates on iPads
- McKeesport prepares for Relay For Life
- New traffic lights to be installed near McKeesport’s Jerome Bridge
- Steel Valley extends superintendent’s contract