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Carnegie mayor: Borough, Papa J's, community will rebound from fire

| Tuesday, March 6, 2018, 11:51 a.m.
Firefighters remained at the scene of a Friday night fire in Carnegie on Saturday, March 3, 2018. The blaze engulfed the building that houses the popular PaPa J's restaurant on the first floor.
Tony LaRussa | Tribune-Review
Firefighters remained at the scene of a Friday night fire in Carnegie on Saturday, March 3, 2018. The blaze engulfed the building that houses the popular PaPa J's restaurant on the first floor.

At a public meeting Monday in Carnegie, community leaders, residents and business owners vowed to help Michael Troiani, his employees and tenants of a building that caught fire March 2, killing one resident .

Troiani owns the three-story building at 200 East Main St., and Papa J's Ristorante — a long-time Carnegie staple, which occupied the first floor.

He thanked supporters and vowed to recover from the fire.

"It's not going to happen fast, but it's going to be extraordinary when we do it," Troiani said. "And I can't do it without you and all of you people."

Council President Sue Demko said the Carnegie Boys & Girls Club is accepting donations for the nearly 25 residents displaced by the fire. Donations also can be sent to the borough building at 1 Veterans Way.

The borough started a GoFundMe account to help those affected by the fire. A victim relief fund also was set up through PNC Bank.

Demko also said the Red Cross is working to find long-term housing for those displaced by the fire.

Some people attending the meeting questioned if larger items, such as furniture could be donated and stored.

Mike Clayton of Carnegie Volunteer Fire and Rescue said larger items can be stored in the ambulance bays no longer used at the fire station.

The fire station also will host a fundraising dinner, organized by the Carlynton School District PTA. Councilman Phil Boyd said a date for that has not been set.

Mayor Stacie Riley also relayed stories of residents wanting to help.

"I talked to a young girl who wants to do a craft show at the fire department when the weather breaks to raise money," Riley said. "Carnegie has picked up the pieces in the past before and we're certainly going to do it this time."

Troiani also urged community members to remember the employees of Papa J's who now are out of work due to the fire.

"There are 42 employees who lost their livelihood. I think they need to be considered as victims as well as the tenants," he said.

Council member Tess Rem-Canofari urged local business owners to hire former Papa J's employees for any work they might have.

Troiani urged people to attend a March 7 memorial for the fatal victim of the fire, John Michael Wells, 64.

Wells was a longtime maintenance worker for the Troiani family, and a resident of the building when it caught fire. Wells died Saturday afternoon at UPMC Mercy.

"I need this to be an outpouring of love for Mike Wells from everybody. I need his family to have that," Troiani said.

With so many people wanting to help victims, borough police Chief Jeff Kennedy warned them not to fall victim to scammers. Kennedy urged people to only donate to the GoFundMe account through the borough.

"I noticed on Facebook there's a lot of individuals setting up their own GoFundMe accounts. These might be very honest accounts, but I don't know about that. This would be the perfect time for a scam," Kennedy said.

Eric Eisert is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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