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Fire destroys North Versailles home

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By Stacy Lee
Friday, Feb. 10, 2012

A black Labrador retriever puppy perished in a house fire in North Versailles Township.

Firefighters brought out the cage containing the deceased dog's remains to give to the homeowner after a blaze that was reported Thursday at 6:22 a.m. destroyed the home at 428 London Ave.

Another dog survived because he was on the back porch.

None of the home's other occupants were reported injured in the fire.

"The house was fully involved with fire," Fire Department of North Versailles Chief Jeff McNeill said. "It was coming out of the garage and the windows. It was a defensive attack and there was no way we could go in the house."

He said it took approximately two hours to get the blaze under control.

"That was due to the fact that it collapsed in on itself," McNeill said. "That makes it more difficult to put out."

He said the house is a total loss.

McNeill said the freezing temperatures created ice on the scene and township public works provided salt.

He said the water company was on scene because the one fire hydrant wouldn't shut off.

The remaining structure was demolished Thursday so the Allegheny County Fire Marshal's Office could investigate the cause of the blaze.

"I was getting ready for work and I smelled smoke," neighbor Pam Varchetto said. "But a lot of people have wood burners. I came out on the porch, looked around and I didn't see anything. I went back in the house. I then opened up my back door to let my dog out and all of a sudden this puff of smoke just came over. When I came back out, the flames were shooting out of the house. It happened that fast " like within five minutes."

She said she got her family up and they went outside. Varchetto said she knew the homeowner was at work.

"I knew there was a puppy inside," she said. "The neighbor and the one policeman had already kicked in all the doors, but it was just too late. The flames were right there. They had to go back. The whole house was just up in flames in a matter of minutes."

Varchetto said her uncle Joe Rodman built the house at 428 London Ave.

"They lived there for more than 50 years," she said.

Varchetto said her cousin sold it to the current homeowner two to three years ago.

The heat from the fire melted the siding of a house next door.

This was the second major fire in North Versailles Township this week. The Winchester Room along Route 30 was heavily damaged by a Monday fire and the majority of it had to be demolished.

"It's been a tough week for everyone," McNeill said.

The American Red Cross Southwestern Pennsylvania Chapter is assisting the fire victim with food and clothing.

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