Woman believed trapped in burning Heidelberg home
Ronald Mixter said he couldn't believe what he was seeing on Thursday evening when he noticed smoke billowing from his neighbor's home in Heidelberg and a man on a porch roof screaming for help.
“He comes out of the window and was screaming, ‘Help me! Help me!' I grabbed my ladder and got him off the roof,” said Mixter, 55, as he watched firefighters from several communities pouring water onto the burning three-story home in the 600 block of Garfield Avenue. “I am just upset I couldn't do nothing to help (his mother).”
Heidelberg police confirmed that one man — identified by Mixter and other neighbors as Darren Walls, 33 — was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries suffered in the fire that erupted shortly before 6:30 p.m. and destroyed the home.
Police — who earlier could be heard radioing emergency dispatchers that someone was believed trapped and that the flames made it impossible to get inside — said a woman remained unaccounted for more than two hours after the fire began.
Several neighbors identified the woman as Pat Walls. Allegheny County records show that the home is owned by Mary P. Walls, 64.
County homicide detectives and the fire marshal were dispatched to the scene.
“All my husband keeps saying is, ‘I couldn't save her. I couldn't save her.' I heard the medics telling one another, ‘The kid said, ‘Mom, come to the door. Mom, come to the door,' ” said Mixter's wife, Edna Mixter, 53, a former Heidelberg firefighter.
Ronald Mixter said when he came outside, he heard neighbors frantically saying there was no way to get Darren Walls off the roof.
“I grabbed my ladder and stumbled down over the hill,” Mixter said.
“(Walls) kept saying his dog was in there. He was afraid to come down the ladder, so I had to help him down. I tried to get the door open with the top of my ladder, but the flames were shooting out. I couldn't get in. It was just too bad, all black smoke,” Mixter said.
Michael McKee, 60, of Green Tree said he was cutting the grass on the rental property he owns next to the Walls' home when he saw Mary Walls come home about 5:45 p.m. and slowly, because of some physical problems, make her way to the house. He said he had just returned home when his renter sent a text message about the fire.
Becky Hymes, who said she and her husband bought property in 1989 from Walls to build their home a few blocks away, described her as a quiet but friendly woman who always waved when she drove by.
“She was a sweet lady, a very sweet lady,” Edna Mixter said. “We always called her ‘Miss.' She is a very friendly lady. I am heartbroken.”
Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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