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Raging Fire Destroys Swissvale Apartment Complex, Firefighter Hurt

SWISSVALE (KDKA) -- At least one firefighter was hurt and a few people remain unaccounted for after a raging fire ripped through an apartment building in Swissvale Tuesday night, and gusty winds hampered efforts to put it out.

The four-alarm fire was first reported at the three-story building around 7 p.m. at Woodstock Avenue and Melrose Street.

Authorities say they have yet to make contact with the people who lived in three of the apartments. All the other residents were able to escape.

Flames lit up the night sky over Swissvale. The wind blew thick smoke across town from the fire at the apartment building.

Police went door-to-door to make sure residents were able to escape. Morgan Lane and her two boys lived in one of the 16 apartments.

"This is disastrous. I had no idea this was going to happen today, and I just can't believe it," said Lane. "Everything is in there. I didn't get anything out.

(Photo Credit: KDKA Photojournalist Bryan Orr)

Police tell KDKA there was a close call when part of a wall collapsed and bricks went flying, narrowly missing some of the firefighters.

One of the first firefighters to arrive on the scene was injured when the winds ripped a piece of the building's gutter off. It fell and hit him on the nose.

Neighbors reported hearing a loud pop when the fire began.

"All of a sudden, we seen a pop and then a flash of light out the window in the living room and our lights flickered," said one witness.

Some witnesses reported seeing a transformer blow up, causing sparks. However, it is too early to tell what caused the fire.

As the fire continued to rage, the backside of the building collapsed. Fortunately, no one was hurt when it did. The fire chief of Swissvale said the intense wind made the flames harder to fight.

At one point firefighters were able to go inside, but soon after had to come right back out.

"We had to go in and do a primary search after we had things somewhat under control, and we were only able to check the first two floors," said Chief Clyde Wilhelm. "Crews were pulled out very quickly because this was a wind-driven fire. We had very high winds and you couldn't even see in front of you on the street."

Again, there's is no word yet on what caused the fire.

Swissvale Fire - Full Report at 11 KDKA-TV | CBS Pittsburgh

Posted by David Highfield on Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Red Cross is providing assistance to 13 children and 18 adults who have been displaced by the fire.

Stay with KDKA for the latest on this developing story.

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