Fire in Vandergrift destroys three dwellings

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Low water pressure from aging pipes in Vandergrift made it impossible for firefighters to save three houses and a garage in a Friday night fire.

Steve Potoka, chief of Vandergrift #2 Fire Department, said that even with three aerial trucks and five pumper trucks called to 519 Burns St., “We were stuck right off at the beginning.”

The first trucks arrived “within minutes” of being called to the scene shortly after 10:30 p.m., Mr. Potoka said, “and by then two houses were already burned to the ground.”

A broken hydrant near the homes yielded no water, so pumper trucks were deployed to different hydrants to tap into the water supply. Since the municipality’s water runs on a loop system, if a hydrant is broken, others will possibly fail, too.

During the four hours it took to put the fire out, trucks with water tanks were used to hose down the two homes and keep the fire spreading to a third home, but it was destroyed as well. Two other houses had water damage.

Families living in the homes -- five adults and two children -- were staying with friends and relatives, he said

Officials at the Westmoreland County Municipal Water Authority could not be reached for comment, but Mr. Potoka said that the municipal authority installed a new 36-inch water main at the top of Hancock Avenue  five years ago.

But the fire was on the other end of town, he said, at the end of the system’s loop, and the pressure was simply too low.


Mackenzie Carpenter, 412-263-1949. On Twitter @MackenziePG.

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