Arson suspected in New Kensington fire
The work a New Kensington man put into remodeling his home helped intensify the fire that destroyed it and prompted dramatic rescues early Sunday, the city's assistant fire chief said.
A state police fire marshal said someone set the fire that began at the home on Ridge Avenue shortly before 3 a.m. and spread to an adjacent home, said Ed Saliba Jr., first assistant chief with the New Kensington Fire Department.
Despite the intensity of the fire and smoke, no residents of either home or any firefighters were hurt, Saliba said.
How the fire was set is under investigation. A fire marshal could not be reached for comment.
Saliba said smoke detectors alerted residents of both homes to the fire. All escaped to the roofs over their front porches, where they got down by ladders.
The fire began on the back porch of the first house, spreading to all of its three floors and going through the roof, Saliba said.
“The flames were really going by the time (firefighters) got here,” said David Tempest, who lives across an alley from the back of the Ridge Avenue homes. “The fire was on its way.”
At the first house, Saliba said police got Tracy and Calvin Ott and three children down from their porch roof. A cat and a dog were also rescued from the house.
“I'm so upset,” neighbor Lorraine Brandl said, then referring to Calvin Ott. “He put his heart and soul into that house.”
Saliba said the Otts had done a “nice job” of remodeling their home, but the materials used were “very highly combustible” and helped fuel the fire.
“There was a ton of brown and black smoke inside that second and third floor,” Saliba said, adding that new windows held the smoke in.
A firefighter was just getting inside the house when he encountered the dog, a chocolate lab, that “looks at him right in the face,” Saliba said.
Saliba said the dog was very well behaved as firefighters coaxed it onto the porch roof and took it down by ladder.
“That dog was very fortunate he didn't die due to smoke inhalation,” Saliba said.
The fire damaged the kitchen at the back of Cecil and Charmaine Edwards' house next door. Saliba estimated the damage at about $25,000.
Neighbor Daryl Boreland said he was getting ready for bed when he heard the fire siren. He heard on a police scanner that the fire was in his area.
Boreland said he got a ladder from his back yard, which others used to first get Charmaine Edwards down, then Cecil Edwards. He said he's known the couple since he was a boy.
“I was kind of scared when I came out, if they were in there sleeping,” Boreland said. “I just don't ever want to be in a fire.”
The Red Cross is helping both families with lodging, clothes and food, spokesman Kevin Brown said. Both homes are insured, Saliba said.
New Kensington police were working to determine if the fire was connected to an armed home invasion-style robbery Saturday morning on Third Avenue.
The possible connection is that a Cadillac STS sedan stolen in that incident is registered to the Otts, police Chief Tom Klawinski said. The car was being used by their son, the police chief said.
The car was still missing on Sunday.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins see Stars, blanked by Dallas in opening game
- Starkey: Pirates gaining bad big-game rep
- A field day on social media as Pirates’ Rodriguez attacks Gatorade cooler
- Steelers hoping to establish run early against San Diego
- Steelers quarterback Vick getting more acquainted with offense
- Pirates notebook: Fastball command issues hurt Cole against Cubs
- Kennametal HQ relocation rankles Westmoreland County business leadership
- Officials: 1 dead, 3 wounded in Northern Arizona University shooting
- Upper St. Clair lifeguard ordered to stand trial for rape of female lifeguard
- Clerical error blamed as Armstrong inmate is released
- Pennsylvania hardliners mum on GOP House leadership