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Massive House Fire Sparks Conversation About Blight In North Braddock

NORTH BRADDOCK, Pa. (KDKA) - A man was sent to the hospital after a fierce fire destroyed his home in North Braddock on Tuesday morning.

The fire started around 6:20 a.m. and what was left of the house was torn down just before noon. The structure was barely standing with scorched support beams and collapsed floors.

North Braddock Fire Chief Anthony Rydzak said a man who lived in the home on Stokes Avenue jumped out of a back window and he was transported to a hospital with smoke inhalation. They think his cat may have died in the fire.

Firefighters had to make sure flames didn't spread to a vacant home next door. This is a concern borough leaders want to remove by getting rid of all the blight in the borough.

North Braddock Stokes Avenue Fire
(Photo Credit: KDKA Photojournalist Brian Smithmyer)

While the fast-moving flames shot through the roof, so did neighbors' anxiety.

"I was scared mainly until I came outside. I didn't know which direction the fire was going in," said Gary Henderson, who lives a house down.

North Braddock Council President Lisa Franklin-Robinson said there are 400 vacant structures and properties in the borough, which she said could add fuel to fires and make flames spread to other structures.

"We have a lot of blight, we have a lot of vacant lots, and fire is always a concern where there is blight because we have at least 400 parcels and my fear is what if it would set off like a matchbox and blaze the town up?" said Franklin-Robinson.

That's why some residents start to panic when there's smoke in the air.

"When there is a fire, sometimes you have to be careful where the fire is at because in your mind, you think is it going to spread, how far back is the fire, what direction is it blowing it in? That was the first thought I had because I didn't know which way the fire was coming until I saw the smoke this way," Henderson said.

Franklin-Robinson and other borough leaders plan to do something about all the empty eyesores.

"It's devastating but we are working on it. Our council is unified in the effort against blight. We are coming up with programs and projects even now to clear vacant lots, to reclaim houses and to rebuild our community," she said.

She said in between the blight, there's beauty because of the people still living in their homes in the borough.

Franklin-Robinson made sure the burnt home was demolished because of safety reasons. It also would have become another eyesore if it wasn't demolished. It was torn down in just minutes.

"We're really working. There are so many people, residents even, that are working on coming up with plans to rebuild our community. I mean, it's a beautiful thing to see how we are going to make beauty come from these ashes and we will, it's just going to take time," Franklin-Robinson said.

Firefighters spent a lot of time putting out hot spots and moving collapsed debris so the Allegheny County fire marshal could investigate before it was demolished.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

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