Blaze Heavily Damages Versailles Ave. Home, Second Also Affected

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

A fast-moving New Year's Day fire has likely destroyed a home in the 3000 block of Versailles Avenue and caused some damage to a neighboring structure.

Five people were displaced by the blaze, according to the American Red Cross.

McKeesport fire Chief Jeff Tomovcsik said a resident of the home called 9-1-1 to report the blaze at 6:54 p.m. Monday. When the first units arrived at the brick, single-family home near the corner of Versailles and Freemont, the first floor was fully engulfed by fire, the chief said.

"It didn't take long before it spread to the second floor," Tomovcsik said. The volume of fire on the first floor slowed firefighters' progress for some time before they could enter the house, he said.

Extremely cold temperatures also made fighting the fire difficult, Tomovcsik said. According to the National Weather Center in Moon Twp., temperatures dropped to 6 degrees Monday night, with a windchill of -11.

"It was pretty miserable," Tomovcsik said. "Any time it gets that cold, the second you shut a hose line down, it freezes up in a matter of minutes. It made the scene a little bit precarious, and we had a lot of ice."

McKeesport public works crews responded to put down salt and ice-melting material, he said.

The American Red Cross is helping four adults and one child who were displaced by the fire, said Dan Tobin, spokesman for the Western Pennsylvania Region. "We provided resources for them to secure food, clothing and temporary shelter," he said. The family also received kids containing basic toiletries.

The victim's names were not immediately available, but one person was taken to UPMC McKeesport for an unspecified injury, where they were treated and released.

County tax records list the homeowner as Valerie Cooper.

In addition to city firefighters, crews from White Oak No. 1, Glassport and Duquesne Annex also assisted at the scene, along with McKeesport Ambulance Rescue Service. Dravosburg No. 1 firefighters were on standby at McKeesport's Downtown station and Rainbow firefighters stood by at Renzie fire station. *

Fire crews were on the scene until approximately midnight, Tomovcsik said.

The fire began on the first floor, he said, but the cause is still under investigation. The Allegheny County fire marshal's office is investigating.

The house is probably a total loss, Tomovcsik said. A neighboring house also sustained some heat damage, he said.

* CORRECTION: This article gave the incorrect name for McKeesport Ambulance Rescue Service. I apologize for the error. - Jason

Originally published January 02, 2018.

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