Fire rips through Verona apartment building

| Sunday, March 23, 2014, 9:48 p.m.

The Allegheny County Fire Marshal's office is investigating a fire on Sunday that ripped through the roof of an apartment complex across from the Verona Borough Building.

No one was injured in the fire, which brought six departments from Verona, Penn Hills and Oakmont to the two-story building on East Railroad Avenue.

Verona Fire Chief Ray Suchevich said the fire started about 5 p.m. in an upstairs apartment facing Diamond Way in the rear of the building. The tenants of the unit reportedly fled when their apartment filled with smoke and a neighbor called 911. The tenants declined to answer questions.

The investigating fire marshal declined to comment on scene and could not be reached later.

“Whatever caused it, the flames went through the roof pretty quickly,” Suchevich said. “From there, it just started rolling from the back to the front of the building. It was difficult to fight because it's a pretty big building and it's a tight space in that alley (Diamond Way) to get equipment back there.”

Fire crews managed to set up two engines along Diamond Way to combat the heaviest concentration of flames in the rear of the building. Another engine and two 75-foot aerials were set up along East Railroad Avenue to douse the fire from above.

After the roof partially collapsed in the rear, firefighters entered the building with handheld hoses. Other firefighters climbed atop the neighboring building to douse the flames through the apartment complex's side windows.

The fire was extinguished by 7:20 p.m., Suchevich said.

One of the building's four units is occupied by a first-story clothing alteration service called Gloria's Fixations, which faces East Railroad Avenue. Verona Mayor Dave Ricupero said the owner, who declined to comment, implored the firefighters to save the wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses for a client's wedding in early April.

“It's all she cared about,” he said of the owner. “It was one of the first things the firemen did when they got here, and it looks like they're going to be saved.”

Suchevich said the fire was contained to the upstairs apartments and that the lower units sustained only water and possibly smoke damage. He could not estimate the extent of damage or say if the apartments were salvageable.

The tenants of the first-story apartment facing Diamond Way and second-story apartment facing East Railroad Avenue were not on the scene. Ricupero and other officials could not identify the building's owner.

The American Red Cross said it's assisting three adults in two families with food, clothing and shelter.

Verona police shut down East Railroad Avenue and Diamond Way from Center to South Avenues for almost three hours, according to Verona police Chief Ron McLemore.

“It seemed like it was pretty serious,” he said. “It's a good thing no one was hurt.”

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or

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