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Fire hits Robinson apartment complex

| Saturday, April 6, 2013, 5:21 p.m.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Firefighters respond to a fire at the Ventana Hils Apartments in Robinson Saturday, April 6, 2013. One unit was destroyed. The fire spread to four other units. No injuries were reported.

Colby Cox was attending his sister's baby shower in Robinson on Saturday when someone looked out the window and saw smoke billowing from an apartment building nearby.

Cox, 18, and his brother ran to the three-story building at 1900 Ventana Drive and started knocking on doors — and then breaking them down — to see whether anyone was inside. Everyone got out, and Cox said he figures they saved at least two or three dogs and some pet birds.

“It was a quick fire,” said Cox of Chippewa. “Our intention was to get out any living thing.”

The first 911 call came at 4:17 p.m., an Allegheny County dispatcher said. Flames engulfed one unit by the time firefighters arrived, and the blaze spread to at least four other units when the roof and part of an exterior wall collapsed. No one was injured.

“We had heavy smoke and heavy fire from the roof,” Moon Run fire Chief Paul Kashmer said.

The fire stunned residents of the development, which has many multiple-unit buildings across a steep hillside.

Mike O'Rourke, 40, of Columbus, Ohio, was helping a buddy move into one of the buildings when they saw the fire.

“We just pulled up and smelled something burning,” O'Rourke said. “And then about five minutes later, we looked up, and the building was engulfed.”

They, too, began pounding on doors to alert people.

Erika Vasquez, 40, a resident of the building that caught on fire, was returning from a workout when she saw the flames. She ran up to find her unit destroyed with firefighters inside spraying down the walls to keep embers from flaring.

She had lost almost everything — except her dog, Lola, a pug-Jack Russell terrier mix. “This is the only thing that really matters,” she said, covered in soot from cuddling the dog.

Firefighters from Robinson's three volunteer companies as well as units from Kennedy, Stowe and Emsworth responded to the blaze, according to authorities.

Kashmer said he could not estimate the extent of the damage or immediately identify the cause of the fire.

Andrew Conte is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at aconte@tribweb.com. Staff writers Bill Vidonic and Tony LaRussa contributed to this report.

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