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Some Residents Welcomed Back To Thomas Campbell Apartments After Fire

SOUTH STRABANE, Pa. (KDKA) - Coming home has been a long time coming for several residents displaced by a fire at Thomas Campbell Apartments in Washington County.

Nearly 60 people were forced out and have been staying elsewhere since December, but Wednesday, a dozen residents were given a warm welcome home.

Some of the residents KDKA talked to say it's good to be home after nearly two and a half months of staying in a hotel or with relatives. Repairs were being made while they were elsewhere. They were forced out just two days before Christmas when a fire started in the kitchen of a sixth-floor unit and spread throughout a portion of the building, resulting in the death of one woman a few days later.

"I'm excited. I'm very happy. I can't wait. Today it starts," said resident Ernest Matthews.

Matthews is one of 12 residents who were welcomed back Wednesday with a luncheon, some cake and even donations from local churches and congregations. They received things like cleaning supplies, towels and linens to make the transition just a little bit easier.

"We had over 100 welcome back boxes of essential materials and supplies donated to residents. We want to make people feel as happy as possible and as comfortable as possible. Let them know we care about them," said Arthur Keys, president of the Thomas Campbell Board of Directors.

Keys says seven residents came back last week and the rest will return once renovations are complete.

One woman showed KDKA her newly renovated apartment.

"I'm happy where I am now. My apartment is bigger. I'm content," said one resident.

While these residents say they're glad to be back, they say one of their own is greatly missed.

Frances Venen, 78, was hurt in the fire and died a few days later.

"She was a sweet lady. I'm sorry she's not here now. I miss her," said Matthews.

The property manager of the apartment building says some new safety features were added with the hope that nothing like this ever happens again.

"The fire system was completely upgraded and replaced and put in as new," said property manager Pat Giuld.

Management hopes the rest of the residents will be able to return in the coming weeks.

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