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4 cats die in early morning Monessen duplex fire

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Monday, April 14, 2014, 1:01 a.m.

No people were injured, but four cats died in a Saturday morning fire in Monessen.

Municipal fire Chief Chris Rhome said a fire call came in at 6:37 a.m. for the left side of a duplex at 413 First St. The lone resident, Ray “Mickey” Manderino, was not home at the time.

An electrical short in a lamp in an upstairs bedroom ignited a nightstand before flames spread to a mattress and an interior bedroom wall, Rhome said.

Monessen No. 1 fire Chief Joe Altemara and firefighters Anthony Snyder and Ben Billy rushed into the bedroom and knocked down flames with a hose approximately 15 minutes after the call came in, Rhome said. The fire was contained to the bedroom, he said.

“Another 15 minutes and we'd have had a hell of a mess on our hands. This fire would have really, really been going,” Rhome said.

“It was knocked down within a matter of minutes, but we spent another hour and 20 minutes checking for any extension.”

The call came in with reports of entrapment, but that wasn't the case, Rhome said.

Dorothy Demas, who lives in the other side of the duplex, escaped unharmed, Rhome said. Demas owns the duplex. Demas' daughter, who was visiting from out of state, made the call after smelling smoke.

Demas' side of the duplex was not damaged, Rhome said.

Manderino has been housing more than a dozen cats, four of which died from apparent smoke inhalation, Rhome said.

Capt. Tom Ashbaugh and firefighters Snyder and Brian Walters rescued one cat from the upstairs, administered oxygen and were able to revive it.

Firefighters found other cats unharmed when they went to the basement to shut off the main power source, Rhome said.

Code enforcement officer Buzzy Byron said Sunday that Manderino's residence is temporarily uninhabitable because of moderate water and smoke damage. The cats were well taken-care of, he said.

Byron said Manderino had gone fishing early Saturday morning before the fire broke out. Saturday was the first day of trout season.

The Monessen No. 1 and Hilltop departments responded, along with the North Belle Vernon fire department, Monessen police and Mon Valley Emergency Medical Services.

The incident capped a busy weekend for city firefighters, who had responded to six alarms over the past two days, including a minor chimney fire and brush fire, Rhome said.



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