A 6-year-old boy started a fire in the laundry room of a second-floor apartment Saturday afternoon, causing a blaze that displaced nearly 80 people from a West Oakland apartment building, Pittsburgh Public Safety officials said Monday.
The boy, who isn’t being identified or charged by police, told investigators he used matches to light a fire. The boy and his family have been referred to the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families for assistance.
The fire started after 2 p.m. Saturday at the Deraud Street apartments and it grew into a five-alarm fire that wasn’t under control until 5:35 p.m.
“As soon as we stepped out of the door of the inner hall, the whole thing went poof. Everything just caught on fire like a piece of tissue paper. It just went straight up,” said Mischelle McMillan, president of the Deraud Tenant Council.
McMillan spent Monday helping her neighbors figure out what they were going to do and talking with city officials and people from the company that owns the building, the Allegheny Housing Rehabilitation Corporation, to figure out what happens next.
McMillan, 63, has lived in the apartments since 2010. The company is scheduling one-on-one meetings with displaced tenants, McMillan said. She said she has hers Tuesday morning.
The American Red Cross was assisting about 74 people who were displaced by the blaze. The Red Cross was using part of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center as a temporary shelter for 24 people Monday, said Joe Korinchak, a Red Cross volunteer who was at the convention center Monday afternoon.
“We’re in the process of finding places for folks to go,” Korinchak said.
About 20 of the 74 tenants spent Saturday night and Sunday morning in the convention center. On Sunday night the Red Cross sheltered 28 people there.
Anyone impacted by the fire who needs help can contact the Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
The Allegheny Housing Rehabilitation Corporation is also assisting 18 families impacted by the fire by offering other affordable apartments in the area. Others in need of help should call AHRCO at 412-392-4445 to set up an appointment.
AHRCO is working with organizations in the region to provide additional support for those affected, Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Cara Cruz said.
AHRCO spokespeople couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.