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Firefighters Battle Ice And Flames In Wilmerding

WILMERDING (KDKA) – Firefighters responded to a raging fire in Wilmerding.

It started in one home, then quickly spread to a second home.

But in addition to fighting the fire, crews were battling bitter temperatures too.

Thick, white smoke filled the sky early Friday morning.

It was just after 2 a.m. that crews were called to Welsh Avenue.

"You could see the orange flames coming through the blinds and windows, but when you opened them, both houses were just like overflowing with flames," said a neighbor.

"We had the first structure, which is the one on the corner here, fully involved front to back, top to bottom," said Wilmerding Fire Chief Tom Hartzell.

The corner home and another were both on fire.

Neighbors describe flames shooting from just about every angle.

When emergency crews arrived on the scene, they quickly learned the houses were vacant.

They decided to tackle the fire from the outside, a defensive fight.

"We're not going to risk anybody's safety, especially one, for a vacant house and two, the conditions that we were faced with upon arrival," said Hartzell.

Those conditions were the intensity of the flames, plus bitter cold temperatures.

"We have a warming tent set up, a rehab set up," said Hartzell. "So we're working in shifts. We'll work a little bit, get warm, get some fluids, hot liquids, something to eat, come back up, just keep rotating crews. We don't want to get anybody expose to the cold any longer than they actually have to."

Because of the cold, water from the hoses and hydrants froze, creating icy roads in the neighborhood.
A public works employee was called in to spread salt.

"That's just another thing we got to worry about, is footing," said Hartzell. "Obviously we are on a pretty steep incline here, so that is definitely a concern. But he is helping out quite a bit."

The fire marshal is investigating the cause and origin of the fire.

The good news is there were no injuries.

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