Marine saves family from blaze

Investigators believe McKees Rocks house fire is suspicious


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Anthony Kascak was loathe to leave his burning McKees Rocks home, flames raging all around him early yesterday, until a visiting Marine escorted him to safety.

The Marine, Lance Cpl. Shane Duncan, has been credited with rescuing Mr. Kascak, his wife, Patricia Kascak, the couple's granddaughter, Rebecca Kascak, and her 1-year-old daughter, Vanessa; and Mr. Kascak's great-granddaughter, Eve, 4.

Mr. Kascak suffered burns on his back.

A McKees Rocks police officer was injured by falling debris, and Cpl. Duncan said he suffered a minor burn on the hand he used to open the front door to carry the last child to safety.

The house, at 760 Frederick St., was destroyed by the fire, which investigators said is suspicious.

No arrests have been made, and no other injuries were reported.

Though hailed as a hero, Cpl. Duncan, 21, just got home Sunday, on leave from his base in Hawaii, and he was invited late Tuesday to visit his old friends, the Kascaks, who live around the corner from him.

He went to school with Susan Kascak, who lives next door to her grandparents, and he once coached Rebecca when she played in a youth soccer league.

Rebecca invited him over to meet her baby daughter. While they fed the child in the basement at about 1:35 a.m. Wednesday, they heard a loud crash, like glass breaking, in the living room upstairs, Cpl. Duncan said.

The Marine ran up to check and found the carpet burning in the middle of the room.

He hustled downstairs to make sure Rebecca, Vanessa and her grandmother Patricia were taken safely outside when Rebecca reminded him that young Eve still was in a room upstairs.

"You have no idea [how scary the scene was]. I was shaking. My heart was pounding," he said.

"But," he added, "My Marine training kicked in and I calmed down and did what I had to do. I was going to get that baby out, no matter what."

Cpl. Duncan leaped over the fire on the floor and made it up the stairs to retrieve Eve.

Once outside, the family realized Mr. Kascak was the only one still inside.

"I gave [Eve] to Becky and ran around the back looking for her grandfather," Cpl. Duncan said.

He found Mr. Kascak apparently unable to put out the fire and reluctant to leave as he watched the destruction. So, the Marine grabbed his hand and led him outside.

The heroic rescue took less than two minutes. When Cpl. Duncan and Mr. Kascak emerged from the back door, two borough police officers were at the door, yelling for survivors as they inched their way into the doorway.

At that moment, the fire spewed hot embers, one of which struck a 29-year-old officer in the eye.

He and his partner immediately applied snow to the wound before the officer was taken to Allegheny General Hospital. The officer's identity wasn't available.

The 21/2-story house was engulfed in flames when firefighters and medics arrived, just after police got there.

The home was destroyed, but no other properties, including Susan Kascak's home next door, were damaged.


Jim McKinnon can be reached at jmckinnon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1939.


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