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Neighbors save Chinese immigrants from fire in Marshall-Shadeland

| Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012, 11:50 p.m.
Pittsburgh firefighters battle a blaze in the upper floor of a home on Marshall Avenue near 65, Tuesday, December 25, 2012. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

Quick thinking by a high school sophomore and his adult neighbor saved three Chinese immigrants from a Christmas afternoon fire that gutted their Marshall-Shadeland home.

Daring Pittsburgh firefighters scrambling up ladders to gush water into the flames saved the house next door.

Juvon Knight, 15, a student at Homewood's Student Achievement Center who lives nearby, spotted smoke curling out of a three-story building at 1404 Marshall Ave. about 2:45 p.m. and yelled for help. Hearing the calls, Garrick Mitchell, 58, ran out of his Atmore Street home and saw flames shooting from the upper-floor window.

“I heard someone yelling, saying that someone was still trapped inside,” Mitchell said. “So I ran in and got into the stairwell. There was this Asian man up there in the kitchen. He couldn't communicate, except in broken English, but I yelled at him, and we were able to run out there. We heard this popping sound, and the roof was on fire.”

That popping sound, said Knight, was the building's air conditioner. It exploded as flames veined the walls and sparks shot out from the wiring, shortly before Mitchell and three other men burst out of the smoke to safety.

Four Pittsburgh fire engines arrived almost instantly after that, Knight and Mitchell said.

“It was blazing away,” Mitchell said. “But the firefighters responded really well. They were all over it.”

While hoses surged water into the home, firefighters hurled a large television through a scorched window frame and then hacked away at siding and roof tiles, spraying fingers of flame whenever they darted out of the mist.

“It was a full-blown fire on the third floor when we got here,” said city Fire Battalion Chief Rich Rutkowski. “I'm glad to say that there was no damage to the adjoining house.”

Like Mitchell and Knight, the chief praised his firefighters' response. Investigators were still probing the cause of the fire and had no estimate of damage on Tuesday.

The residents of the house could say only that they were immigrants from China and had no idea how the fire started.

Carl Prine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7826or cprine@tribweb.com.

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