Fire destroys home in Monessen

| Monday, July 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Four Monessen residents were forced from their homes after a Sunday morning fire destroyed one house and severely damaged another on the 400 block of Second Street.

A state police fire marshal could not determine the cause as of Sunday evening, according to Monessen Municipal Fire Chief Delmar Hepple. He said initial witness accounts indicated the fire started on the second floor of a two-story home at 417 Second St. The structure eventually collapsed into its foundation.

Hepple said the call came at 2:44 a.m. Sunday for a home occupied by Nikkia Jones and her 9-year-old daughter. Neither was home at the time, Hepple said, adding the daughter was at an all-night skate.

Jones told fire officials she had left the house around 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

The fire spread next door to the attic of 415 Second St., where Monessen police officers Jimmy Franks and Carl Fronzaglio pounded on the door to awake residents Larry and Tammy Jones, who quickly evacuated.

“From what I saw when we got there, the fire had a pretty good head start,” Hepple said. “We did what we could do to try and keep it from extending, but it had already gotten into the eaves and the attic before we even established water.”

Firefighters battled the blaze for more than three hours, dousing hot spots from above and around the structures before bringing the flames under control, Hepple said. The Authority of the Borough of Charleroi was called to boost water pressure of hydrants.

Mon Valley Emergency Medical Services set up a center with cooling fans and liquids and treated nearly two dozen firefighters for dehydration and heat. None was injured.

Responding were Monessen No. 1 and 2, Rostraver No. 1, Donora and Lock Four fire companies. Crews from Charleroi and North Belle Vernon were called off stand-bye and rushed to the scene. Belle Vernon and Roscoe fire departments remained on stand-bye.

Monessen firefighters did not clear the scene until 10:30 a.m. Sunday, but were recalled less than two hours later when windy conditions caused a rekindle of flames under the piles of debris.

Another house at 209 Knox Ave., located behind Nikkia Jones' residence, sustained water damage, Hepple said.

Jones and her daughter are staying with relatives, while Larry and Tammy Jones were put up at local hotel by the American Red Cross, according to Hepple. It is not known whether the victims are related.

A dog owned by Nikkia Jones remains missing and officials are uncertain if it perished in the fire or ran off. Another dog owned by Larry and Tammy Jones is being given temporary shelter by the Westmoreland County Animal Response Team.

Hepple said it is fortunate Nikkia Jones and her daughter were not home at the time, saying the fire acted “like it was alive.”

“If they'd have been home in bed,” Hepple said, “it might have been a different story.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635. Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2667.

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