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Woman killed in Cecil house fire

Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 8:00 a.m.

Jack Howell and longtime neighbor Stephen Pelc sat together on Wednesday and watched in disbelief as Pelc's home burned in the frigid morning air.

“He said it twice: ‘Jack, Peg's still in the house,'” Howell recalled Pelc saying about his wife, Margaret. “Then he said, ‘Maybe she never woke up.'

“I guess that's the only comforting thought he could have.”

Margaret “Peggy” Pelc, 64, died in the house fire that a neighbor reported about 3:15 a.m. on Laurel Hill Road in Cecil.

Firefighters from four departments responded. McDonald Volunteer Fire Department arrived first. The fire was extinguished before 8 a.m. The Washington County Coroner's Office pronounced Peggy Pelc dead at 9:18 a.m.

An autopsy is pending.

One of Pelc's adult sons — Jeffrey, Howell said — suffered minor burns and was taken to UPMC Mercy, Uptown, for treatment. UPMC provided no details about him. Friends comforted their other son, Stephen, at the scene.

Peggy Pelc probably was on the sofa in the living room, where she often slept when her husband worked late as a supervisor in the Port Authority of Allegheny County's Light Rail Systems Group.

Stephen Pelc, 62, pulled a double shift Tuesday into Wednesday and received a call at work about the fire, Howell said.

“He normally would have been home,” said Howell, 66, who worked with Pelc as US Airways mechanics and later in plant maintenance at Pittsburgh International Airport until the early 1990s.

Peggy Pelc suffered a stroke several years ago, recovered and then was diagnosed with breast cancer, Howell said.

The Pelcs built their split-level brick house in 1980, said Howell, who moved into his house up the street seven years earlier.

“Good people,” he said. “Our kids grew up together.”

Cecil fire Chief Ed Povirk said the cause of the fire is under investigation. His department is working with fire marshals from the state police.

They are looking into reports that the fire could have started from a clothes dryer, although other possibilities are under investigation, Povirk said.

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or



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