Homes burned in Mount Oliver fire demolished

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Several Mount Oliver residents watched with resignation today as fire crews sorted through the remains of their homes.

Shaun Gloeckl, 29, his girlfriend Deborah Stevens, 31, and their four children sat across the street from their leveled Ormsby Avenue home on Mr. Gloeckl’s aunt’s porch.

‘‘It hasn’t really set in yet that we don’t have anywhere to go. We lost everything,” Mr. Gloeckl said of the fire that destroyed four houses, damaged seven more and left at least 48 people homeless Sunday afternoon.

Residents dealing with aftermath of Mount Oliver fire

Mount Oliver residents were dealing today with the aftermath of a fire that destroyed several homes and created concern about the safety of neighbors. (Video by Nate Guidry; 6/9/2014)

Crews told him nothing was salvageable, so the houses were knocked on top of one another as residents could only watch.

Dozens of investigators are working today to try to piece together the cause of the fire, an Allegheny County official said.

‘‘It's a large jigsaw puzzle,’’ said Alvin Henderson, chief of county emergency services.

He said teams from Mount Oliver, county police and fire marshals and local utility companies are working together to try to determine the cause of the fire and the order in which it jumped from house to house with the wind.

‘‘We're starting to put those pieces together, to build the overview of what transpired,’’ Chief Henderson said.

The fire started directly across from the house in which Joe Bryden, 33, his girlfriend and four children lived. Mr. Bryden was in the living room on the first floor Sunday when he heard screaming outside. He said he looked out the front door and one of the now-destroyed homes was engulfed in flames. Mr. Bryden took several videos of the quickly burning fire on his cellphone before embers began to land on his roof at around 11 a.m. His family was evacuated as firefighters broke through windows and walls searching for hot spots.

Mr. Bryden and his father, Robert Bryden, 64, along with several residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed waited today for insurance adjusters. In the meantime they looked through the home attempting to salvage belongings as they discovered which items, including new mattresses, TVs, and most of their clothing, were destroyed.

During the course of the investigation, police hope to interview all those who lost their homes, the first-responders and any additional eyewitnesses, Chief Henderson said. Given the large number of people affected, that process could take awhile, and a time frame for completing the investigation has not been set, the chief said.

In the meantime, he said, ‘‘We don't rule out anything. We don't go down any certain track. We take all of that information and start piecing it together.’’

The American Red Cross established a shelter area at the Mount Oliver Fire Department on Brownsville Road. A Red Cross worker said most of those displaced stayed with family or neighbors Sunday night but two people who lived where the fire reportedly started were taken to a hotel for their protection. The Red Cross worker said several angry neighbors attempted to fight the individuals they blamed for the fire.

Chief Henderson said officials in Allegheny County receive a handful of calls each year for fires that spread from one home to another, but those fires do not normally reach the size that Sunday's fire in Mount Oliver did.

‘‘This is kind of a unique situation that we really don’t see these too often,’’ he said.

Potters House Ministries at 430 Cathedral Ave. is accepting donations for those who lost their homes.

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