Fire sweeps through houses in Mount Oliver


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  • Davie Seitz sat on the porch of a house a block away from the ruins of her Mount Oliver home Sunday, holding the leash of Kona, the only one of her family's three dogs that escaped a wind-fueled fire that destroyed four houses, damaged seven others and displaced at least 48 people.

    "There's nothing left. Nothing but the clothes I'm wearing," said Ms. Seitz, who awakened to the smell of smoke around 10 a.m. Sunday and roused the rest of the household at 193 Ormsby Ave.

    "I grabbed my hamster. I grabbed Kona. I was yelling for everybody to get up. I was running down the hall and I saw [her boyfriend's dog] Odie and I told him to come, but I don't think he did. I know he didn't. He didn't make it out," she said, brushing tears from her cheeks.

    Fire sweeps through several homes in Mount Oliver

    A fire swept through several houses in Mount Oliver, destroying at least four of them. (Video by Nate Guidry; 6/08/2014)

    Other members of the household, however, were saved by her alarm, including Joe Abbinanti, 67, the owner of the house and the grandfather of Ms. Seitz's boyfriend, Jeffrey Melzer. Authorities said no one was seriously injured in the blaze that an estimated 100 firefighters helped contain before noon.

    "I know I'm OK physically. I'm just not OK emotionally," Ms. Seitz said, embracing Mr. Melzer.

    On Sunday night, displaced residents in need of shelter called the Mount Oliver Fire Department at 120 Brownsville Rd. their home.

    In addition, St. Joseph's Church, 430 Cathedral Ave., was set up as a family service center.

    "This is a location where families or individuals affected by the fire can go meet with a Red Cross staff person," said Kevin Brown, Red Cross spokesman. "They'll be interviewed and we'll conduct an assessment of their needs, whether they need lodging, food."

    Mr. Brown said the Red Cross identified 48 people, including nine children, displaced by the fire, though the final head count will likely be higher.

    From 193 Ormsby, which sits near the top of a hill in the little South Hills borough, the flames spread quickly. As firefighters were arriving, the blaze was taking hold, consuming Mr. Abbinanti's home, then moving to adjacent houses and jumping to a house on nearby St. Joseph Street. The heat was so intense it melted the siding of a house a block away in the other direction.

    A Pittsburgh firefighter was transported to a local hospital for heat exhaustion and at least one person was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, according to authorities.

    Mr. Abbinanti's daughter, Joann Melzer, said she was at her job as a server at Falce's Restaurant in Munhall when she got the call that the house was on fire.

    The three-story house with a finished basement was home to eight people: Mr. Abbinanti; Mr. Abbinanti's son, also named Joseph, and Joseph's girlfriend; Mrs. Melzer and her husband, Tim; their two sons and Ms. Seitz.

    Mrs. Melzer said the fire started in the basement. She said she was told the fire was started by a smoldering cigarette.

    Public Safety Director Mike Huss said the Allegheny County fire marshal has been asked to investigate.

    Firefighters remained on the scene hours afterward, checking for hot spots and guarding against rekindles. Assisting Mount Oliver were battalions from areas including Pittsburgh, Homestead, West Homestead, Arlington, West Mifflin, Pleasant Hills, Baldwin and Brentwood.

    Brett Sholtis contributed. Karen Kane: kkane@post-gazette.com or at 724-772-9180.


    Steve Twedt contributed to this report. Karen Kane: kkane@post-gazette.com or at 724-772-9180 First Published June 8, 2014 10:31 AM

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