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Mt. Lebanon couple killed in house fire

| Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, 8:40 a.m.
Firefighters take a break after fighting a blaze at a home along McNeilly Road in Mt. Lebanon, Thursday, December 27th, 2012, where two people were killed. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Firefighters battled a blaze at a home along McNeilly Road in Mt. Lebanon, Thursday, December 27th, 2012, where two people were killed. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Firefighters battled a blaze at a home along McNeilly Road in Mt. Lebanon, Thursday, December 27th, 2012, where two people were killed. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Firefighters battled a blaze at a home along McNeilly Road in Mt. Lebanon, Thursday, December 27th, 2012, where two people were killed. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Neighbors are mourning the loss of Dennis Miller, 61, and his wife, Susan, 56, who died in a blaze Thursday morning in their home along McNeilly Road in Mt. Lebanon. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

Investigators searched for the cause of a fire Thursday that killed a Mt. Lebanon couple whom neighbors described as quiet but kind and willing to help others.

“They would do anything for you,” Mary Sullivan, 49, said of her next-door neighbors, Dennis Miller, 61, and Susan Miller, 56. “It breaks my heart.”

A neighbor saw flames coming from the house in the 900 block of McNeilly Road and reported the fire at 7:22 a.m., Mt. Lebanon police Deputy Chief Mike Gallagher said.

The house was engulfed when police and fire crews arrived, Gallagher said, and the roof collapsed shortly afterward. It appears the fire was burning for at least 20 minutes before firefighters arrived, Mt. Lebanon fire Chief Nick Sohyda said.

“There's no doubt in my mind that those residents were deceased before we arrived because of the volume of fire,” Sohyda said. “There was no way we were going to save them.”

Firefighters contained the fire in about 25 minutes and found the victims inside, Gallagher said. One firefighter suffered a minor knee injury when he slipped and fell, Sohyda said.

Allegheny County Chief Deputy fire Marshal Donald Brucker said the blaze started on a living room sofa and that both victims were found in the kitchen. He said authorities don't know the cause of the fire, but it doesn't appear to be suspicious. Firefighters and officials from Mt. Lebanon, Castle Shannon, Dormont and Allegheny County responded.

Neighbors said the Millers both had health problems. Susan Miller fell and broke a bone earlier this year, and Dennis Miller was on oxygen, Sullivan said.

Sullivan, who works a night shift, said she was eating at a diner when she saw fire trucks go by. She broke down in tears when she learned the Millers died.

“I just feel so bad,” Sullivan said. “You feel helpless. Maybe if I had been here, I could've smelled something or heard something.”

The Millers raised two daughters. They could not be reached for comment Thursday. One of the daughters often brought her son to visit his grandparents.

“They loved their kids,” Sullivan said. “We would talk over the fence. Both said anytime I needed anything to come let them know. They haven't had an easy life.”

Susan Miller recently retired from working in a school cafeteria, and Dennis Miller was on disability after a work-related injury, neighbors said.

“Both of them have been in bad health for a while,” said Nancy Manolios, 61, who lives across the street. “This past year we've seen ambulances taking them both out multiple times.”

Manolios said her husband called 911 when he saw the flames. She stood with her daughter in their driveway as firefighters worked to douse the fire.

“We were watching, hoping,” Manolios said. “It was unbelievable. Just heartbreaking.”

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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