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Arson charges filed against man accused of starting Etna apartment fire that displaced six people, injured one firefighter

74-year-old charged with arson in Etna fire
74-year-old charged with arson in Etna fire 02:08

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Arson charges have been filed against a 74-year-old man accused of starting a fire at an Etna apartment building that displaced six people and resulted in a firefighter getting hurt. 

Arthur McCormick showed up at the scene one day later and found it hard to see all that was left of his niece's home. It's the place where she lived for 15 to 20 years with her husband, Elmer Lewis until she died in 2023.

"It's very, it's just sad. I didn't know it was that bad for him, you know?" McCormick said. "She got very sick and died, and he took it hard."

At least six people were displaced and a firefighter was hurt after an apartment went up in flames on Tuesday in Etna.  KDKA-TV Photojournalist Dennis Lane

Fire crews got called to the three-story duplex on Vilsack Street near Kraus, just before noon Tuesday.

Flames were shooting out of the building and at one point, a garage exploded, sending the door flying, and hitting a responding fire truck.

According to court records, one of the residents sustained a burn injury when trying to get Lewis out of his unit. A Millvale firefighter also went to the hospital for heat exhaustion.

"Thank God nobody got killed," McCormick said.

Witness interviews helped investigators determine who was responsible. Detectives said one told them Lewis admitted he set his house on fire, saying his "landlord [had] been screwing with [him]."

The criminal complaint also describes Lewis confessed to pouring gasoline and setting the place on fire.

Estimated damages are more than $100,000.

"I think he set this up because he got rid of a lot of stuff in the last couple of months," McCormick said.

McCormick said Lewis was a mechanic and had tools worth thousands in his place. He doesn't think Lewis is a bad guy but will now have to face the consequences.

"His heart was broken. He just couldn't deal with life no more," McCormick said. "I just think he got too lonely in there all alone in that big house, and he snapped."

Lewis remains at Allegheny County Jail.

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