Man escapes Tarentum house fire from 2nd-floor window; 2 pet cats die
A Tarentum man who escaped flames ripping through his two-story home early Monday with help from police and a neighbor’s ladder was treated for smoke inhalation, officials said.
At least two pet cats died in the fire at the duplex on Conroy Way, officials and neighbors said.
The sound of glass shattering in back-to-back bursts woke Marylou Gohn shortly after 4 a.m. Calls for help followed from across her narrow, one-way street near the Allegheny River a few blocks southwest of the Tarentum Bridge. She thought maybe someone had fallen.
“Quick, call 911! Call 911!” the voice shouted. “My house is on fire!”
Gohn jumped out of bed, phoned 911 and rushed to her window. She saw her neighbor’s living room lit up in large, orange flames.
A man — a longtime homeowner and construction worker whom neighbors call Tony — was perched on a stretch of roof outside a second-floor bedroom window. She could barely see him through the thick, black smoke.
A few houses to the left, Gary Lorent, who takes medication to help him sleep, said at first he thought he was dreaming when he heard someone hollering outside.
“Then I heard it again and called 911,” said Lorent, a friend of Tony’s. “So I come out, and I could see all the smoke. And Tony’s hollering, ‘Help me! Help me!’”
Within about five minutes, police had arrived, as sirens blared signaled the aid of several volunteer fire departments.
Neighbors credited one of the first police officers to get there with pulling up his car beneath the roof where Tony was crouched and telling him to jump onto the car’s hood. Another man who lives in the duplex, identified as Jeremy, got out and called out for Tony to jump.
“You’ve got to jump!” another neighbor shouted.
“He was hanging onto that corner, he said, ‘I can’t.’” Gohn recalled.
Lorent had one thought on his mind as heavy smoke enveloped his friend: “Get him outta there.”
“He wouldn’t jump,” Lorent said. “So I told the officer, I said, ‘There’s a a ladder between the houses, get the ladder!’”
About the same time, Marylou’s husband, Keith Gohn, was running to the side of their house across to the street and had started dragging it over.
With Lorent’s ladder in place first, a police officer climbed up and helped Tony make it down safely.
It took about 45 minutes for firefighters to extinguish the flames, Summit Hose Company fire chief Joshua Fox said.
In addition to Tarentum’s three fire companies, firefighting units responded from Harrison, East Deer and Frazer townships and from Lower Burrell and Brackenridge.
“This fire is on a very tight, narrow street,” Fox said. “Tarentum police and neighboring police did a great job of clearing the street for the fire trucks to sit. All the fire departments on the scene did an excellent job containing the fire to the one side of the building.”
The homeowner referred to as Tony, whose full name was not immediately released, was treated and released at Allegheny Valley Hospital, Fox said.
Property records show the duplex is co-owned by Anthony Huegel and Jeremy McIntire.
The fire completely gutted of the house, with shattered glass, broken furniture and rubble from walls and ceilings scattered around and inside the black-charred house and patio and yellow caution tape blocking the front door as emergency crews cleared the scene Monday afternoon.
Allegheny County fire marshals are investigating the origin and cause of the fire. The Red Cross arrived to assist the two displaced residents, Fox said. Tony is staying with his brother in Moon Township, neighbors said.
A fire broke out at the same property shortly after the pair purchased it in 2004, neighbors said.
“It’s very sad because he’s been working on that house constantly” Marylou Gohn said. “They had just bought the house and they had a fire, and they’ve been remodeling it since then. I feel really bad for Tony because he works every weekend, every day he’s off, vigilantly, working and fixing up his house.”
The fire caused severe smoke, heat and water damage to the other half of the duplex, where at least two cats died. Officials found two cat bodies. A third cat that was not found and spends time outdoors still is missing.
Lorent is keeping his eye out for the gray feline, who happens to be the mom of his own pet cat.
“He’s still out there running around, I hope,” Lorent said while on his porch Monday afternoon, before heading inside to pour some cat food into a dish. “I’m just thinking where to put food.”
The cause and origin of the fire were not immediately clear.