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West Deer firefighter helps family escape burning home

| Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

A volunteer firefighter's “split-second” decision to drive by a reported house fire before reporting to the station might have saved a West Deer family early on Sunday.

A couple and one of their three children were sleeping in their Dawn Road home, unaware that flames were already through the roof.

Miste Wiegand, 27, a firefighter since 2004 with West Deer Volunteer Fire Co. No. 3, said she lives in the same housing plan, Fawn Haven 3, as the home that burned in the 4500 block of Dawn Road.

Neighbors reported the fire to 911 about 5:40 a.m.

After being awakened by a pager alerting her to the fire, Wiegand realized the address was less than a mile away. She went by the house first, which she said took her “just a smidgen” out of the way of her route to the fire station, to see if there really was a fire.

“I saw the flames. The house is burning,” she said. “I saw there were cars still in the driveway. I was, like, ‘Oh my God, there are people still inside.'”

Wiegand said she first ran to the back of the house to see if anyone was outside there, yelling all the while. Finding no one, she banged on the front door. She believes her banging woke a young girl, whose screams woke the parents, who later told Wiegand they never heard her.

The residents' names were not available. Two other children were not home at the time, said West Deer fire Chief Josh Wiegand, Miste Wiegand's brother-in-law.

Chief Wiegand said the home had no working smoke detectors in the home.

“We found one that did not have a battery in it,” he said.

Firefighters believe the fire started on the ground floor and went through a wall into the attic. An Allegheny County fire marshal is investigating the cause. No one was injured.

Chief Wiegand said the fire caused extensive damage, but he could not provide a cost estimate.

The American Red Cross is providing the family with emergency relief.

Miste Wiegand said she doesn't see herself as a hero.

“I just think it's something anybody else would have done,” she said.

“The most important possession got out, and that's the family.”

Bob Bauder and Brian Rittmeyer are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Bauder can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com; Rittmeyer can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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