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Fire crews rescue pets as flames destroy Irwin home

| Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, 12:02 a.m.
Tribune-Review
A firefighter removes removes charred debris from 1220 10th St. in Irwin on Jan. 24, 2013 after a fire heavily damaged the home. Two family pets were rescued from the blaze. Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
Gypsy, the family dog, was rescued by first responders, along with a cat, when a fire broke out at 1220 10th St. in Irwin on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. Gypsy is in the temporary care of a neighbor. Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
A firefighter removes removes charred personal belongings from 1220 10th St. in Irwin on Jan. 24, 2013 after a fire heavily damaged the home. Two family pets were rescued. Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review

Two family pets were rescued from an intense fire that destroyed a house on 10th Street in Irwin on Thursday morning.

Although flames had engulfed the back of the home, firefighting crews advanced deep into the split-level home owned by Susan Padolf to search for two cats and a dog.

No one was home during the fire and no firefighters were injured, said Irwin fire Chief Justin Mochar.Josh Helfmann, a firefighter with Irwin Volunteer Fire Department, said he navigated down stairs into the basement area. He could hear banging as firefighters on the level above him worked to put out flames in the living room.

He continued searching each room until he heard a whimper.

“I went to a bedroom and the dog was stuck in the corner,” he said. “He actually looked at me and jumped into my arms, so I brought him out. At that point, the guys had most of the fire out in the living room, so I had a clear path to get the dog out.”

Firefighters also were able to locate a cat. They believe another cat was hiding in the home or escaped through an open door.

“You like to see good things come out of it,” Helfmann said. “Unfortunately, she lost her home, but we got her dog out. I was glad I could get him out safely.”

The fire broke out in the rear of the house just after 9 a.m., Mochar said.

“Crews were met with heavy fire,” he said. “They were able to contain the fire to the first and second floors.”

A neighbor who saw smoke ran to the home to check on anyone there. She had a key and opened the door to yell, but determined no one was home and pulled the door shut, Mochar said.

The family will be displaced, firefighters said. A damage estimate was not available Thursday.

A state police fire marshal will investigate the cause.

The temperature wasn't cold enough to cause water problems for firefighters, but keeping them warm was a concern, Mochar said.

“Any time temperatures sink below single digits, you have to worry about firemen operating on the scene,” he said.

Murrysville Medic One set up heated tents for firefighters, who were served hot chocolate and water as their vital signs were checked, Mochar said.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6220 or adolasinski@tribweb.com.

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