Neighbors come to aid in Rankin house fire


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A Rankin family lost nearly everything in a house fire Friday morning.

But one thing they've got plenty of is good neighbors.

When a two-alarm blaze swept through the house Frank Noonan lived in with several relatives, two neighbors ran next door to help.

One, Elizabeth Mathews, stuck around after, offered her home for temporary stay and tried to provide some solace.

"I'm glad you guys are here," Ms. Mathews said to the family, "because material stuff can go."

The flames spread shortly after 9:30 a.m. at 21 N. Holland Ave.

Braddock fire Chief Tom Petrovic said an out-of-service fire hydrant and a nearby water main break complicated efforts, as crews were delayed in getting water to the house by a few minutes.

The hot weather Friday morning also presented a challenge, but no one was treated for heat exhaustion, he said.

Investigators from the Allegheny County fire marshal's office are investigating the blaze's cause and origin.

The family noted that Duquesne Light had been working on a pole next to the house Thursday. Fire marshal investigators were looking into the possibility the blaze could have started there. The power company was also on scene Friday morning.

Mr. Noonan has rented the three-story house for about 10 years. Several relatives live with him, but only the 76-year-old and Ralph Bridgelal, who is related to him through marriage, were home when the fire started.

"All I saw was smoke and a great big boom," Mr. Noonan said.

As he was running out, he met Ms. Mathews at the door, who had rushed to help after seeing thick, black smoke outside followed by an explosion.

Another neighbor, Robert Miller, saw the flames spreading and heard a popping noise before he also ran next door.

Both he and Ms. Mathews yelled for Mr. Bridgelal to come down from the third floor.

"We were in the house screaming at the top of our lungs," Mr. Miller said.

All made it out safely, but Chief Petrovic said the home is a total loss. Neither the renters nor the owner had insurance on the house, according to the fire marshal's office.

Ms. Mathews said the family was allowed in the home Friday afternoon to salvage any belongings. One room, she noted, appeared to be untouched.

Fire companies in Rankin, Whitaker, Braddock, North Braddock, East McKeesport, Forest Hills and Munhall responded.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com.


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