2 dead in Fayette mobile home fire
Awakened in the middle of the night to word his mother’s mobile home was on fire, Joseph “Joey” Hardin said he ran to Rose Circle in Strickland Estates, where she lives.
He would be too late to help.
After the flames that left the home a scorched, charred shell were put out by firefighters, his mother, Patty Hardin, 53, and her companion, Charles Dillow, 45, were found in a back bedroom and pronounced dead at 8:17 a.m., state police said Thursday.
“I just can’t leave this site,” said Hardin, 29, who with other relatives and friends stood vigil near the home several hours after firefighters had left. “Without my mom, I don’t know what to do anymore.”
He recounted the moments when he arrived at the trailer, when he still had hope. He said he frantically called out to his mother, but got no response. As flames consumed the single-wide mobile home in Georges, Fayette County, Hardin said he went up to the rear bedroom window and tried to open it.
“I wanted to run in there,” Hardin said. “I thought the trailer wasn’t even hot, or warm, but the window was.”
He described how he tried to pry open the window, only to be forced back by intense heat that burned his hand.
“It felt like something you’d never want to put your hand on again,” he said.
Trooper John S. Krause said in a news release that neighbors called 911 at 3:32 a.m. when they noticed the fire at 46 Rose Circle. Volunteer firefighters from Smithfield and Fairchance extinguished the blaze, Krause said. Results of a state police fire marshal investigation are pending.
Hardin said he last saw his mom Wednesday when he visited her, Dillow and their dog — who is now missing — for coffee. Hardin, whose father died in 2006, described his mother and Dillow as good people who were always willing to lend a hand to others in need. He said his mother moved in with Dillow about 18 months ago.
“We were just sitting there, joking around and carrying on, like we always do,” Hardin said about his last visit with the family.
“I gave my mom a hug and a kiss, and I said, ‘I’ll see you later.’ I gave him a high-five.
“And then this tragedy hits. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”
Autopsies on the couple were scheduled in Pittsburgh on Thursday to determine the cause and manner of death, said Deputy Coroner Mallory Onusko said.
Some of those who gathered near rubble of the home said the trailer park has no fire hydrants, and firefighters had to bring in water. No one from the Smithfield or Fairchance volunteer fire departments could be reached for comment Thursday.
Dorothy Robinson, a clerk at Tiff’s Market, a small neighborhood store, said the park’s owners are her daughter, Tina Strickland, and her husband, Tim. Robinson said the Stricklands were driving in from Ohio and were not available for comment.
Nothing in the county’s zoning laws requires mobile home parks to install fire hydrants, but the owners must comply with state and federal laws, said Sara Rosiek, director of the Fayette Zoning, Planning and Community Development Office.
Ruth A. Miller, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the State Fire Commissioner’s Office, said there are no state laws requiring the placement of fire hydrants in residential areas, including mobile home parks.
“The fire commissioner certainly recognizes the need for local fire companies to have the tools and resources necessary to do their jobs, but regulations regarding fire hydrants would generally be made at the local level,” Miller said.
Mark Migyanko, a Georges supervisor, said the township has no authority to order the installation of fire hydrants.
“As far as I know, they have city water, but that’s up to (the owner) to put fire hydrants in the park,” Migyanko said.
Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or [email protected].