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Neighbors rescue woman from fire in Elizabeth Township

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 5:09 p.m.

Firefighters remained at the scene late into Tuesday night of a fire that destroyed a shed, an adjacent house and some nearby woods in Elizabeth Township.

“I heard the explosion and I looked up and saw all that black smoke and I called 911,” neighbor Dorothy Howell said about the blaze up the hill from Wolfe Drive and Simpson Howell Road.

Allegheny County dispatchers said the call came in at 3:19 p.m. It brought multiple fire companies to the home of 74-year-old auctioneer Earl Beatty and his 72-year-old wife Janice at 530 Simpson Howell Road.

The Allegheny County fire marshal's office is investigating the cause.

Earl Beatty told Trib Total Media news exchange partner WPXI-11 that he was in the shed recharging a battery when he saw smoke.

“The side of the house caught fire first and the wind was blowing it around back. It actually then went around the back and then back to the front,” he said.

Neighbors helped get the couple and their three pet dogs out of the house.

“She didn't want to leave,” Howell said of Janice Beatty, her cousin. “But they got her out of there.”

Howell said Janice Beatty used oxygen.

“Everyone is accounted for,” township police Chief Robert McNeilly said as he directed alternating traffic up and down a single lane of busy Simpson Howell Road.

Dispatchers said the flames triggered several brush fires in the surrounding area.

Earl Beatty said he lost hundreds of antiques in the flames, but has insurance.

“What can you do?” he told WPXI. “Everyone got out and it's only money.”

Neighbors reported hearing several explosions, but police and firefighters have not confirmed those reports.

The fire broke out at the start of the afternoon rush hour when students were being bused home from nearby Elizabeth Forward High School. McNeilly said the fire could be seen from the school.

Authorities said one firefighter suffered minor injuries and was taken to a nearby hospital by Elizabeth Township Area EMS.

Firefighters from throughout the township and as far away as Pleasant Hills and Sutersville responded. Gallatin-Sunnyside volunteers from Forward Township remained on call at the nearby Central Volunteer Fire Co. hall late on Tuesday.

West Penn Power and Peoples Natural Gas crews also were called, and the Salvation Army sent an emergency services van.

Water had to be brought in on high-pressure lines from hydrants some distance away along Simpson Howell. A Jefferson Hills 885 Area company truck was seen carting water up the hill.

For Dorothy Howell, the fire brought back memories. Not far from her home is Howell Craft Inc., which was ravaged by a fast-moving fire in 2009.

With the help of their family and company employees, Dorothy and her husband Herbert Howell rebuilt the stone yard, shop and office over the next year.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or



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