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Home, 2 dogs lost in quick-moving Mt. Washington fire

| Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Lucas Palumbi keeps warm with a blanket Sunday after he and his mother, Sue Anderson, fled their burning residence in the 400 block of Kambach Street on Mt. Mount Washington. The fire broke out shortly after 10 a.m. and according to family members, took the lives of two family dogs. Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review

Susan Anderson's kitchen cupboards caught fire on Sunday morning while she was cooking potatoes, and the fast-moving blaze destroyed her Mt. Washington home and extensively damaged two nearby houses.

Anderson ran upstairs to alert her son, Lucas Palumbi, 30. Both escaped safely from the home in the 400 block of Kambach Street, as did everyone who was at home at the other residences — but Anderson lost her two beloved miniature dachshunds.

“The cabinets were burning,” said Anderson, 60, watching with tears as firefighters finished extinguishing the charred house where she had lived since 1976.

“I went to get my son, and call 911 and get the dogs. The dogs didn't make it,” she said. “We went outside, and we couldn't get back in. The smoke was too bad.”

Anderson's brother George said the dachshunds, Riley and Winnie, “were like her grandkids. That's what she lived for, those dogs.”

George Anderson of New Bethlehem said he and his sister, a registered nurse with Mercy Behavioral Health, own the house.

He was in Pittsburgh for a weekend event with friends when he learned of the fire and went to Kambach Street to help his sister and nephew, a pharmacy technician.

What remains of the Andersons' house will have to be torn down, Pittsburgh Deputy Fire Chief Dan Hennessy said. The fire was reported shortly after 10 a.m., and firefighters found heavy smoke and flames visible from the front and back of the first floor when they arrived.

It took 90 minutes to get the fire under control, he said, and the houses that sit close to each side of the Andersons' sustained substantial damage. An arson investigator will study the house where the blaze broke out, which is routine, Hennessy said.

Getting firetrucks and hoses to the scene was a challenge because of the narrow streets, and cars parked up to the corners, authorities and neighbors said. George Anderson said firefighters had a similar problem several years ago when another house in the neighborhood burned.

Police and firefighters cut off access to sections of several streets around the scene.

Jeff Rosso, who rents one of the damaged houses with four other Duquesne University students, was getting ready to go to work around 10:15 when he heard a smoke alarm, then saw flames next door.

He said he rushed to get his three roommates who were home out of their house.

Firefighters returned to Kambach Street in the afternoon for reports that the fire had rekindled.

The Red Cross helped the Andersons with food, clothing and shelter.

Kim Leonard is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5606 or kleonard@tribweb.com.

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