In McKees Rocks, Pa. on Tuesday, May 8, at approximately 6:18 p.m. Allegheny 9-1-1 received reports of a shed on fire in the rear of 821 Gray Avenue, which is reportedly close to the structure.
EMS and police officers arrived on the scene within a couple of minutes, and reported heavy black smoke showing from 821 and 823 Gray Ave. Upon hearing the update, Chief 189 requested that Stowe Township companies be dispatched for mutual aid. Fleming Park (Station 275 R.I.T.), West Park (Station 276) and Presston (Station 277) were dispatched on the second alarm assignment.
Firefighters were faced with several units on fire, and exposures threatened. Chief 189 advised it would be an initial defensive attack only. Crews laid a supply line from the hydrant and immediately set up for deck gun operations on side "A". They stretched attack lines to protect the exposures from the fast moving flames.
Other personnel laid a supply line from the opposite end of Gray Avenue to the front of the involved structures and set up deck gun operations.
Engine 277 proceeded to side "C" of the involved structures and initiated a defensive attack. 189 Truck was set up for aerial master stream operations in front of the structures. Additional crews advanced additional attack lines and assisted with fire suppression efforts as well as exposure protection.
Command requested that Kennedy Township (Station 181) be dispatched for additional manpower. Ben Avon (Station 109) and Emsworth (Station 148) were sent for additional R.I.T. support.
Crews had the bulk of the heavy fire knocked down within 45 minutes. With the bulk of the heavy fire darkened, crews were able to advance lines into the exposures. Command placed the fire under control at approximately 7:50 p.m. Crews remained on the scene for an extended period of time, performing extensive overhaul operations and dousing hot spots.
Salvation Army personnel were on scene with their mobile canteen unit, providing food and hot and cold drinks to the emergency personnel. American Red Cross personnel were on the scene assisting the dozen or so displaced occupants, by providing them with food, clothing and temporary housing.
Northwest EMS transported one female to Allegheny General Hospital, where she was treated for breathing related problems.
The Allegheny County Fire Marshal was called to the scene to investigate the fire. The rapid spread of the fire was attributed to common walls and roof of the units and the lack of fire stops. The radiant heat was so intense that it melted the siding on townhouses across the street.