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4 hurt in Brackenridge senior high-rise fire |

4 hurt in Brackenridge senior high-rise fire

Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Pioneer Hose Company Fire Chief Rick Jones talks about what fire crews encountered when they arrived at a fire at the Brackenridge Hall apartments along First Avenue in Brackenridge early Friday, Dec. 5, 2014.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
An Allegheny County Fire Marshal's unit leaves the scene of a fire at the Brackenridge Hall apartments along First Avenue in Brackenridge early Friday, Dec. 5, 2014.

When police officers pulled up to a fire inside the Brackenridge Hall high-rise about 4:30 a.m. Friday, residents said there was a man trapped in his apartment.

Brackenridge police Officer T.J. Bajack and Tarentum Sgt. Ryan Hanford, both volunteer firefighters, ran inside through heavy smoke to the third-floor apartment.

“We tried to force the door, and that’s when we saw the guy semi-conscious on the floor up against the door,” said Bajack.

Together, the officers carried the man from Apt. 304. Then Hanford took him outside while Bajack used a nearby fire hose to keep flames from spreading until Brackenridge’s fire company, Pioneer Hose, arrived.

“The police did a great job,” said Pioneer Fire Chief Rick Jones. “They had the fire mostly out and the building evacuation under way by the time we got there.”

The 63-unit high-rise on First Avenue houses senior and disabled residents.

Tenants were permitted back inside about 7 a.m.

Four people were taken to hospitals, including the man in the third-floor apartment. He suffered burns and was taken to UPMC Mercy’s burn unit in Pittsburgh.

The other three people were taken to Allegheny Valley Hospital in Harrison for smoke inhalation and injuries that were aggravated during the evacuation.

Authorities aren’t releasing the names of the victims.

The fire started in Apt. 304 and likely was caused by the tenant smoking in bed, Jones said. The man had oxygen tanks in his apartment that he uses for a medical condition.

The tenant faces eviction, said Allegheny County Housing Authority Executive Director Frank Aggazio.

“There would be a recommendation and a committee reviews those each month,” he said. “We look at the evidence like if the person is a danger to others.”

The apartment where the fire started and the one below it sustained water damage. Others were damaged by smoke.

Aggazio estimated damage at $50,000.

He noted that the housing authority is in the process of phasing out smoking inside its housing units.

Four or five buildings are already smoke-free and smoking will be prohibited in Brackenridge Hall by next October, he said.

“It’s a hazard to one’s health,” Aggazio said, “and we’ve had fires over the years at different locations that have been caused by this.”

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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