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Roosevelt Building fire: 1 person dead, 2 first responders injured in downtown fire

1 resident dead, 1 critically injured after downtown Pittsburgh high-rise fire
1 resident dead, 1 critically injured after downtown Pittsburgh high-rise fire 02:11

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - One person died and a resident, medic and firefighter were all injured in an overnight fire in Downtown Pittsburgh. 

The flames sparked in an apartment on the 12th floor of the Roosevelt Building. 

Pittsburgh Fire Chief Darryl Jones says a female was pronounced dead at the scene in a stairwell below the floor the fire was on. He said she was not trapped, but couldn't come all the way down the steps. 

"She was below the fire floor itself, she couldn't come all the way down the steps," Jones said. "EMS went up to meet her, doctors went up to work on her, and the doctors called it."

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office identifies her as 80-year-old Barbara Johnson.

A second person was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

A medic was also taken to a hospital for smoke inhalation and a firefighter was treated on the scene for minor injuries. Jones says the fire was contained to the 12th floor of the high-rise on the corner of Penn Avenue and Sixth Street. 

"There were flames coming out of the whole floor, big flames, it wasn't a little fire," said Jamie Roach, a displaced resident.

A total of 106 people were in the building. Everyone from the eighth floor and below sheltered in place. Many went to nearby buildings for warmth because the gas was shut off. An evacuation point was established at the Benedum Center. 

"The Red Cross is on-scene. We had to shut the gas off to the building. Nobody is going to be able to stay here. The Red Cross is going to take care of sheltering these people until they can find other accommodations, for at least a couple of days," Jones said.

The fire was under control at 12:13 a.m. Crews were on-scene for a while because they had to make sure that everyone was accounted for. 

Percetia West lives on the eighth floor. She quickly packed a bag before firefighters helped her evacuate.

"They helped me come down through the staircase and we came out through there, and the water was coming in so bad in my bathroom, I'm slipping and sliding trying to get my toothbrush and toothpaste," West said.

The Salvation Army is assisting Red Cross disaster volunteers to provide support and meals.

Seventy-five displaced residents stayed at the Red Cross' emergency shelter in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The Salvation Army is assisting Red Cross disaster volunteers to provide support and meals.  

"People are here getting food, have a place to stay, warm place. It's cold outside so it's great that they're having a place to kind of rest, recoup and we're working on next steps," said Nicole Roschella with the Red Cross of Greater Pennsylvania.

Tenants who are still at the shelter are praying they'll be able to go back home soon.

"We can't go get our medicine, nothing. We're all a mess, we're all a mess." Roach said. 

Residents are counting their blessings.

"Glad to be alive!" said Vincent Zepp.

"Praise the Lord, the fire department, everybody," West said. "I just been giving the Lord all the praise because we couldn't have done this, this is a blessing. The Lord got all of us out of there except for one person that passed away."

Some tenants were forced out by a fire in the Roosevelt Building in January of 2022. A man also died after a fire in the high-rise in February of 2012. 

1 dead after fire in Downtown high-rise 02:37

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

"We're all kind of working together to get answers and get more information to these people that are obviously in a tough situation so we want to get them as much comfort and care as we can," said Roschella. 

Anyone in need of help can call 1-800-RED-CROSS. 

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