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Pittsburgh-area senior high-rise reopens 2 years after deadly fire

Washington County senior high-rise reopens 2 years after fire
Washington County senior high-rise reopens 2 years after fire 01:50

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Two years after a devastating and deadly fire, a Washington County senior high-rise reopened on Wednesday with new fire prevention measures.  

For those who live and work at the Thomas Campbell Apartments, Wednesday's ribbon cutting symbolized how the building and spirit of its residents have risen from the ashes, but it's not been easy. 

On, Dec. 23, 2021, the building caught fire, destroying or damaging 30 units. It took a human toll as well.

"Unfortunately, we did have a fatality, Frances Venen," said Arthur Keys with the board of directors. 

To keep another tragedy from happening, the building's owner installed some $7 million in fire prevention and safety devices. 

"The sprinklers that you see, the new fire alarm system you see, this is one of the most advanced fire alarm systems that you will find," said Chief Jordan Cramer with the South Strabane VFC.   

As much as Frances Venen's death has changed the building, her death also changed the fire department that initially responded to the call.

"The purchase of an aerial truck, so our ladder truck is now capable to reach this floor of the building," Cramer said. 

Marcy Kiefer lived on the seventh floor where the fire broke out. She lived with her son while the building was being repaired. She says since the fire, the building has changed for the better, but in some ways, she hasn't.

"When I see fire trucks coming, I get that panicky feeling," Kiefer said. 

"I just don't want no part of nothing that comes with fire trucks." 

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