Pa. fire capt's house burns

After the shock of hearing his own address dispatched, he radioed that no one was in the home

By Jodi Weigand
The Valley News-Dispatch

VANDERGRIFT, Pa. — Vandergrift Fire Department No. 1 Capt. John Uskuraitis was driving back from the funeral of Ligonier Township Lt. Eric Eslary Saturday afternoon when he heard the fire call over his scanner.

At first it didn't register that 127 Sherman Ave. in Vandergrift was his home address.

Once the shock wore off and he heard the initial reports of people possibly in the house, Uskuraitis called in to let Westmoreland County 911 know that no one was home, Vandergrift No. 1 Deputy Chief Randy Dunmire said.

Uskuraitis lives with his wife and three children ages 7, 11 and 14. Uskuaitis declined to comment at the scene.

The fire was reported shortly before 3 p.m. When fire crews arrived, flames were shooting out the rear door and windows and heading up to the second floor of the two-story home, Dunmire said.

Firefighters extinguished flames within 20 minutes and brought two dogs down from the second floor. Paramedics performed CPR on a bulldog and a boxer mix, but they were unable to save them, Dunmire said.

Officials believe the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction in the kitchen, likely the stove or microwave, he said.

"His wife was maybe two miles away when she thought she might have left the stove on," Dunmire said. "She came back and checked and it wasn't on, so she left again."

The most damage is in the kitchen and dining room area, said Dunmire. But heat and heavy smoke caused extensive damage on the second floor, he said.

There are homes on both sides of the Uskuraitis house, but neither was damaged.

With temperatures in the upper 80s, firefighters took precautions, and none suffered heat-related problems.

Dunmire said he and the first crew inside to battle the fire pulled out and sent in a new crew after 15 minutes, about half of a regular shift.

"I can usually stay in the whole time, but this time we decided to come out," Dunmire said.


(c)2015 The Valley News-Dispatch (Tarentum, Pa.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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