McKEES ROCKS, Pa. - Crews battled a large fire Thursday morning at an apartment building in McKees Rocks.
The fire was reported shortly before 6:30 a.m. at the 19-unit building on Chartiers Avenue. Officials said an occupant called 911 and said flames were seen near an apartment on the third floor.
"it was literally like a skyscraper of smoke as we were coming into work this morning and I knew something really bad was happening," said Lydia Morin.
The building owner told Channel 11 a tenant tried to put out the flames, but they quickly spread to the roof, down the length of the building and then the whole building ignited.
"I can't believe they got him out of there," said tenant Aaron Strickland. "It's a good thing they did; he's an old man -- he's like 90 years old -- and he can barely shuffle."
The building was evacuated and the Red Cross is assisting 12 people who were displaced, officials said. The elderly man and one other person needed to be rescued.
Several occupants and firefighters were treated for minor injuries. Officials said the injuries were primarily caused by slips and falls because of icy conditions at the scene.
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"These old buildings have drop ceilings and numerous roofs and it made it very difficult to get in, and of course, as soon as we turned the water on, everything froze," said McKees Rocks fire Chief Nick Radoycis.
Ice ended up covering the building, the road, the firefighters and their equipment. Tenant Casey Brown lost everything except for one incredibly meaningful possession: an urn with his mother's ashes that a firefighter was able to save.
"It's really the only thing that was important," he said. "I have this and a necklace with my mother's ashes. This or that was the only thing I was concerned about."
A Port Authority of Allegheny County bus was brought in so people could stay warm.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but one possibility is a kerosene-fueled space heater used in a third-floor apartment, officials said.
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