Mt. Lebanon fire kills couple

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In their last years, life didn't seem to come easy for Dennis and Susan Miller.

After a work accident that cost him part of a finger, he stopped working. He used an oxygen tank and, earlier this year, she broke a bone in a fall.

After their deaths Thursday in a fire in their Mt. Lebanon home, neighbor Mary Sullivan said she'll remember fondly the couple she lived beside for more than 25 years.

"I just can't believe it," she said. "It just breaks my heart."

Firefighters found Mr. Miller, 61, and Ms. Miller, 56, inside their home at 916 McNeilly Road. Crews had been dispatched to the home about 7:20 a.m. after a neighbor called to report the blaze.

The house was engulfed in flames and the roof collapsed, but crews contained the fire in about 20 to 25 minutes, Mt. Lebanon deputy police Chief Mike Gallagher said.

Inside, they found two people identified by the Allegheny County medical examiner's office as the Millers.

Mt. Lebanon fire Chief Nicholas Sohyda said the fire was accidental but remains under investigation by the Allegheny County fire marshal, who will determine cause and origin. Chief Gallagher said it was not suspicious.

Ms. Sullivan was at a nearby diner Thursday morning when she saw emergency vehicles speed by, "never dreaming that it was next door," she said.

She watched the Millers' two daughters grow up in that home, she said, and Ms. Miller sometimes baby-sat her grandson.

Despite their health and financial problems, Ms. Sullivan had noticed some improvements.

"They haven't had an easy life," she said. "They were just getting back on their feet."

Mr. Miller lost a fingertip in 2007 in a press accident in the pressroom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he had worked since 1969.

The injury proved too much for him to return to work, said Rich Bogaski, president of Local 9 of the Pressmen/Paper Handlers union.

After some time on workers' compensation, Mr. Miller left the company in 2010.

As a pressman, Mr. Miller worked as an assistant and later as the person in charge of press operations, leading a crew of 16 to 18 people.

In the mid-'90s, Mr. Bogaski and some pressmen went hunting with Mr. Miller. Mr. Bogaski remembers Mr. Miller as quiet and reserved but easy to get along with.

"Denny was a nice guy, but he was hard to get to know," he said. "He kept to himself -- it was him and his family, that was it."

Neighbors also said the family valued their privacy.

Ms. Sullivan said she had talked to Ms. Miller just a few days before the Christmas holiday.

"They were always willing to help me," she said.

Fire companies responding to the blaze included Mt. Lebanon, Dormont, Baldwin and Castle Shannon.

Joe Bobyn, husband of the couple's daughter, Kalna, said the family had no comment when reached by phone Thursday afternoon.

neigh_south

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944.


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