DELMONT, Pa. --
A Delmont apartment building was evacuated of 17 people Friday morning when fire broke out, and firefighters had to work very hard to save everybody.
Sky 4 flew over the Valley Stream Apartments on Old William Penn Highway before 7 a.m. Fire trucks, emergency vehicles and hoses could be seen in front of the building.
"You couldn't even see. As soon as I opened my window, black smoke just poured in. It was horrible," Rebecca Swank said, as she stood outside with her 5-year-old son.
Channel 4 Action News' Amber Nicotra reported that each apartment has a smoke alarm, but the main alarm that alerts residents was never pulled. Firefighters had to go door to door and use ladders to rescue people who didn't know the building was on fire.
"These buildings only have one way in and one way out, unless you're on the ground floor. There's only two apartments with another access other than that stairway," Delmont Fire Chief Donald Cline said.
Channel 4 Action News' Sheldon Ingram reported that the apartment building does not have an alarm system that connects with Westmoreland County 911. The building dates back to 1971 and is grandfathered under old building codes.
"Each room has its own alarm, but it doesn't go to the control panel. This was before the code. It has an internal alarm, but it's only for that building," Cline said.
Although somebody called 911 from their phone, no one pulled the building's fire alarm and some tenants were asleep when firefighters arrived.
"I went in and opened my door, and when I did, I got hit with a big puff of smoke. I couldn't even see where I was going," Alice Haines said.
Firefighters told Nicotra that it took just 20 minutes to knock the fire out. Most of the apartments have smoke and water damage.
Firefighters said it looks like the fire may have started in an air conditioning unit. The fire marshal is still investigating.
Team 4 investigator Paul Van Osdol reported that some buildings at the Valley Stream Apartments complex have only one exit, which would violate the state building code that requires two exits for apartment complexes, but the building is so old that it did not have to comply with current codes.
Still, Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss said people can take action if they are concerned about the safety of the building where they live.
"Where you feel there may be violations, or something is amiss, you need to contact your local municipality," Huss said. "In our case, the bureau of building inspections or even the fire department would come out and not only look at it but educate the residents too."
Also, residents should call 911 and not assume that the fire department knows when their alarm goes off.
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