Fire forces families from Penn Hills apartment complex

PENN HILLS, Pa. — The Red Cross Disaster Action Team is helping residents who were forced out of their homes when a fire engulfed an apartment in Penn Hills.

This happened just after 11 p.m. Monday at the Oak Ridge Apartments along Robinson Boulevard. From the outside, there doesn’t appear to be a significant amount of damage, but video and pictures from the inside tell a very different story.

Carmalita Johnson-Barker was home with her three grandchildren, her daughter and her aid.  They were all celebrating her birthday.  Before the fire started, she says she heard a lot of commotion in the neighboring apartment.  It was so loud, she said she was going to have someone check on the people next door.

“I went to the hallway and the smoke was just billowing out,” Johnson-Barker tells Channel 11.  “I screamed, came back in, and said to get the kids.  When we came out, the smoke was billowing, the lights sparked which scared me - I fell down I was trying to get out of there.”

Johnson-Barker said she was able to get the grandkids out safely, but she was still so visibly shaken.

“I’ve never been through anything like this,” Johnson-Barker said.  “I was sitting in the ambulance with the kids because it was cold. All the cops and firefighters - it was a mess, I was speechless, I’ve never gone through anything like that.”

Johnson-Barker said you could see flames shooting from a stove from the back of the apartment complex.  Pictures taken by firefighters on scene show everything blackened around the stove, grey marks on the walls from the smoke and water dripping down the walls from crews trying to extinguish the flames.

Carmalita says she just wants to stay in her own home.  A cleaning company came out Tuesday to fumigate.

“He checked out the apartment, said they’re going to get it cleaned up the best they can,” Johnson-Barker added.  “I hope they do because from the hall it doesn’t look like we should be living there.”

Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but it’s not clear how many units were damaged.

The Allegheny County Fire Marshal will determine what started the fire and if there’s anything suspicious.

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