Firefighter hurt battling Homestead house blaze

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Firefighters crawled over piles of books, newspapers and other items Tuesday morning while trying to put out heavy flames in a vacant house in Homestead.

Allegheny County assessment records show the house belonged to Margaret Mary Vojtko, the former Duquesne University adjunct professor of French whose death in September sparked a debate about the workloads and pay of adjuncts at U.S. universities.

A West Homestead firefighter was injured helping battle the blaze at 1110 Sylvan Ave. Homestead Deputy Fire Chief Ron Kalupson said the firefighter, whose name was not released, was taken to UPMC Mercy for observation after he received an electric shock while extending a hose.

The house, while unoccupied, still had electrical power, the deputy chief said.

Firefighters had to crawl over a lot of “debris” to extinguish flames coming from the second floor of the two-story brick home, the deputy chief said.

“The stairwell was blocked due to the fact that it was all packed up with stuff,” he said, adding that is was possible that a hoarder had lived there.

An article about Vojtko in the online magazine Slate late last year said she lived at the home with her sister and brother.

When her brother died in 1993, she filled both that house and one the family purchased next door for storage with her belongings and piled boxes against the walls and windows, Slate reported.

The Allegheny County fire marshal’s office is investigating the fire and will determine its cause and origin.

Several departments responded to the fire, including Pleasant Hills, West Homestead and Swissvale.

Molly Born: or 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede. First Published March 25, 2014 11:18 AM


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