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Most residents return to McKeesport Towers; seventh floor remains vacant
All but 15 residents of McKeesport Towers have returned to their homes following a fire Sept. 8 that gutted a seventh-floor apartment and forced the evacation of the senior-citizen complex.
One resident remained hospitalized Friday in critical condition, authorities said. The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Allegheny County fire marshal’s office, a spokeswoman said.
Diane Raible, deputy director of McKeesport Housing Authority, which owns the complex, said repairs have been estimated at up to $2.5 million, and repairing the damaged units will likely take up to 18 months.
The fire broke out just after 2:30 p.m. in an apartment on the Coursin Street side of McKeesport Towers, a 12-story complex consisting of two buildings, joined at the center.
A mass-casualty incident was quickly declared to aid in evacation of residents who were unable to safely use the stairs on their own, and up to 200 first-responders from fire departments and ambulance squads arrived from throughout the Pittsburgh area.
“We’re still thinking about those people who were hospitalized, and we will be bringing in support staff to talk to residents about their experiences,” Raible said.
Preliminary cleanup work has been completed, she said, and most tenants were able to return beginning on Sept. 10. Air cleaners are doing a good job so far of removing the remaining smell of smoke from the structure, Raible said, and dehumidifiers are also being deployed.
Community members donated food, clothing, shoes, pillows, blankets and bedding to help replace tenants’ personal belongings lost in the fire, she said, though some residents still need cleaning supplies, which can be dropped off at the building, 601 Sixth Ave.
The Housing Authority is especially grateful to crews from Fire Management Inc. and McElwain Plumbing Services who worked to restore utilities to the buildings, Raible said.
“We are very grateful for the community coming together and the different agencies that assisted us,” she said. “If not for those guys, we would not have gotten the building up and running so quickly ... those crews were positively incredible.”
Still displaced from McKeesport Towers are residents of the seventh floor and those whose units were directly under the apartment where the fire began, Raible said
The residents who were unable to return to their units were offered housing in other apartment complexes operated by McKeesport Housing Authority, or in some cases, have relocated to personal care homes, she said.
The damaged units will not be available until repairs are complete, Raible said.
The authority will be organizing a meeting for all tenants soon to talk about the experience, she said, and also to discuss fire safety.
Originally published September 16, 2023.