300 FFs Battle Pa. Wildland Fire, 8 Hurt


A brush fire fueled by dry, windy conditions prompted a response Saturday night from hundreds of firefighters in Westmoreland County.

At one point in the evening, nearly 300 firefighters from Slickville and several fire companies battled the flames fanned by the winds. It took nearly four straight hours before crews could get the fire under control.

Slickville Volunteer Fire Chief Chris Filkosky and six firefighters were first to arrive, but they were quickly overwhelmed. Winds and dry conditions worsened conditions, and nearly 30 acres were engulfed with flames threatening nearby homes.

"There was fire everywhere, heavy smoke conditions. (It was) very windy," Filkosky said. "It was spreading extremely fast. We couldn't keep up with it."

A helicopter picked up water from a nearby reservoir to help douse the flames. In all, dozens of fire trucks, brush trucks, quads and ambulances were called to help.

Three firefighters were hospitalized and eight were treated at the scene for heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.

Filkosky said the fire started when a man was burning trash and the flames spread. He said that they have been to the man's home before for the same problem, saying the man's garage was engulfed the last time they were called.

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