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Mother: 6-year-old son did not start apartment building fire; police disagree

PITTSBURGH — Fire investigators determined that it was a 6-year-old boy playing with matches that sparked a five-alarm blaze over the weekend at an apartment building in West Oakland.

The fire that started Saturday on De Raud Street around 2:30 p.m. displaced more than 70 people.

Fire crews brought in a ladder truck to help pour water on the flames from above.

Two firefighters were taken to the hospital. One was treated for smoke inhalation. Both are expected to be OK.

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"I don't remember him going to the laundry room," the boy's mother said. "I went to the bathroom and came back out and everything is on fire. He didn't do it. My son is not your average 6-year-old. He's a smart kid."

In a press release Sunday, the American Red Cross told Channel 11 their organization was helping all 74 residents displaced by the fire. Red Cross officials said they are providing clothes, food, and medications to some of the residents. Also, organization officials said 28 people from the building stayed overnight at a shelter located at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.


Firefighters were called back to the building on Sunday after hot spots had rekindled.

In a release Monday, police said it was the child who had started the fire: "The boy and his family have been referred to the County Child Line where they will direct them toward any available services and provide the child with the help he needs."

The Allegheny Housing Rehabilitation Company is the company operating the building that caught fire. In a statement to Channel 11, AHRCO officials said they are working to help the people who can't go home:

"We remain first and foremost concerned about the well-being of all our residents. We are working closely with local authorities, HUD, social service agencies and retail stores to help residents who lost everything in the fire. The American Red Cross stepped in immediately to provide emergency services during the past two days.

To help displaced residents, we have identified various properties we manage where apartments are currently available to help with housing.  We are working closely with HUD and have also reached out to other property owners to identify available housing.  We're hoping that each resident's temporary housing problem is resolved in the next day or so while AHRCO assists each resident with a permanent housing solution.

Ahrco's supportive service partner, I Dream A World,  is working with Ahrco and other organizations, including Ikewear 36 and The Center That Cares, to provide transportation, living staples and necessities.

Any organization wishing to assist the Hill Com II residents with new clothing items, new or gently used household goods, or gift cards should contact I Dream a World at 412-894-8988.

We are grateful to the City's first responders, the Red Cross, and to all of the agencies and people helping to provide some relief and comfort to all those who were displaced by the fire."