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Duquesne family saved from burning home

Rob Amen
| Friday, May 25, 2007, 12:00 p.m.

Donna Samuels wiped tears from her cheek, unwrapped a pack of Newport cigarettes and took a long, deep drag.

"All we have are the clothes on our backs and our lives," she said, slowly exhaling.

Samuels has that, she said, thanks to neighbor Courtney Chaney.

Chaney, 18, saw flames shooting from Samuels' home on the 400 block of South Fourth Street in Duquesne about 4:30 a.m. Thursday, banged on the door and shouted for the family to get out.

The fire started on the first floor of a vacant unit of a duplex next door and spread to Samuels' home and another before firefighters extinguished the flames about three hours later, authorities said.

No one was hurt, but authorities said about 10 people, including seven children, are homeless.

"She's a hero in Duquesne," Samuels said of Chaney.

Duquesne fire department Lt. Andy Fedor said the duplex and Samuels' home were destroyed. The third house sustained minor damage, Fedor said.

Samuels said she was asleep when Chaney alerted them of the fire. Samuels' daughter, Jasmine Spell, 12, heard the knocking and woke up the family.

"As we got out, the whole roof collapsed," Samuels said. "We probably would have been dead, had it not been for my daughter and neighbor, Courtney."

Chaney said she was behind her house talking with her boyfriend when she heard glass breaking.

"Two minutes later, I heard a big boom," Chaney said. "I came out, I saw all the flames."

About 10 fire departments responded.

The Allegheny County Fire Marshal's Office hasn't determined a cause, and officials would not say whether the fire was suspicious. Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Donald Brucker said the fire was not electrical or gas related.

Fedor said water pressure from a nearby fire hydrant was low because the homes are at the end of the street and on top of a hill, but he said it did not seriously hamper the effort. Tanker trucks assisted.

It was the second fire in Duquense in about four hours. An unsecured, abandoned house on Catherine Street caught fire about 12:30 a.m. yesterday, Brucker said. No one was injured, but Brucker said the fire was deliberately set.

He did not consider the fires to be connected.

Anyone with information on the fires is asked to call the fire marshal's anonymous hotline, 412-473-2776.

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