Fire kills 1 at house in Richland

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Firefighters entered a blazing Richland house early Saturday morning but were unable to save an elderly resident before being driven back by intense heat and smoke, officials said.

The Allegheny County medical examiner's office was unable to definitively identify the deceased Saturday because it needed to check dental records. Two other residents of the house at 1037 Woodhill Drive escaped the fire, officials said.

The 911 call came in around 3:09 a.m. Neighbors reported hearing two loud bangs around that time.

They noted that the elderly resident was known to use oxygen tanks.

"We got on the scene, the house was fully involved" in fire, said Richland fire Chief Jim Kelly. For around 20 minutes, firefighters were inside, he said. "The flames were too much to try to continue to fighting the fire from the inside."

After hydrants were tapped, a water main broke. That prompted the responding companies to rely for a time on pumpers, until the water supplier restored the pressure, he said. "We never ran out of water," he said, and so the break did not compromise the effort.

Fire companies from Hampton, West Deer, Middlesex and Royal Ridge responded, he said.

It took an hour to fully suppress the fire, he said. No firefighters were hurt. The two surviving residents were taken to hospitals.

Alvin Henderson Jr., Allegheny County emergency services chief, said the cause and origin of the fire were not immediately known. Fire marshals were investigating the scene, and crews were preparing to board up the badly damaged structure.

County records list the owner of the home as Evelyn R. Provost, with a purchase date in 1967.

"Last fall she'd come out to blow the leaves," said Robert Mitchell, who has lived across the street since the 1980s. "She was very active," as well as educated and bright, he said.

Rich Lord:, 412-263-1542 or on Twitter @richelord.

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