Boy, 3, Touches Off Massive Pa. Fire With Lighter

WILMERDING, Pa. --

Investigators believe a 3-year-old boy playing on a couch with his mother's lighter sparked a huge fire that burned a Wilmerding business and apartment building Wednesday night.

The fire started at a building in the 300 block of Airbrake Avenue around 8:20 p.m., and it took firefighters nearly 90 minutes to get the flames under control.

"When I got to the red light here and looked over, I could see the flames shooting out of the roof and smoke just billowing all over the place," said building owner Jim Filia.

Channel 4 Action News' Ari Hait reported that the building housed eight apartments and a sports bar on the bottom floor, and that 20 of the 25 people living inside were at home at the time.

"Somebody came in frantic and said the whole back of the building was up in flames," said Amy Theis, who works in the building. "I was completely frantic. I had no idea what to do. I just ran."

Resident Sarah King told Hait, "I was sleeping on my couch in the living room and my friend that lives in the apartment came knocking on my door, and I came out and I just saw the fire."

At least six firefighters had to be treated for heat exhaustion after battling the heavy flames amid humid temperatures that remained in the 80s throughout the evening.

A tent was set up with fans and water to serve as a cooling station for the firefighters.

The building was completely destroyed, but no other injuries were reported.

Filia, who also owns the Fan Club Sports Bar in the building, said he, along with his tenants and employees, have been left wondering what's next.

"I have a lot of money and a lot of tenants that depend on me for this building and a lot of people that make a living off of my bar," said Filia.

Displaced residents were staying at a community center Wednesday night.

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