Arnold police officers remove woman from burning house

| Thursday, April 19, 2012

Two Arnold police officers pulled a woman from her burning house at 1609 Woodmont Ave. just before 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Kailee Villella, 27, was apparently uninjured but two of her three cats died.

The two-story, wood-frame house was heavily damaged, leaving as many as five people homeless. Fire also damaged siding on a house next door.

Despite the severity of the blaze, volunteers from three fire departments were able extinguish it in about 25 minutes.

Chief Willie Weber and Patrolman Ryan Olszewski arrived to find flames shooting out the front of the house and roaring through the porch roof.

As firefighters hooked a hose to the hydrant, Weber and Olszewski ran into the smoke and fire-filled house to help Villella out.

"She didn't want to leave her animals," Weber said. "We had to physically remove her."

Villella was crying as they walked to an ambulance.

"There are three cats in the house," Villella said, sobbing. "That's all I have."

Rescuers managed to save a yellow cat and a lizard in a terrarium, but two Siamese cats died when one jumped out of a rescuer's hands and ran back inside.

Less than five minutes after they walked past, a power line that burned off the house let loose, swung close to the ground and started to arc.

Firefighters were sent scrambling.

"That was terrifying to see," said Elise Grogno, whose house is across the street from the fire and who provided drinking water for firefighters.

"It was a hazard and we dealt with it," said fire Arnold Capt. Justin Cratty.

Even before 911 was called, neighbor Jim Gasbarro and city employees Jim DeAugustine and Tony Massimino, who were collecting garbage in the neighborhood, tried to get Villella to leave.

She said OK but closed the door, Gasbarro said.

"We were in the alley, saw smoke and ran to help," DeAugustine said.

Dark, billowing smoke was easily seen from Freeport Road and obscured the neighborhood for a few minutes.

Villella's boyfriend, Brandon Smith, 23, was at work at the time of the blaze and arrived to find Villella in an ambulance.

Smith and Villella moved into the house only about six weeks ago.

"We don't have insurance," Smith said. "We haven't had time to get it. I don't know what we're going to do."

He said his mother, father and an uncle were in the process of moving into the house, too.

The fire remains under investigation by two state police deputy fire marshals from Greensburg.

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