Pennsylvania Blaze Claims Two

Jan. 27, 2009
Flames were visible from more than a mile away.


Flames rekindled early Tuesday morning, bringing firefighters back to the Lawrence County house where a fire took the lives of a woman and her 4-year-old niece.

Video: New Castle Fire Kills 2

Firefighters first arrived at about 3 p.m. Monday, finding heavy smoke and flames.

Once inside, firefighters pulled Dawn Tray, 35, and her 4-year-old niece, Josalyn Barnes, out of the house, but were unable to save either of them.

Some neighbors saw the flames from a mile away and returned home to see what was happening.

"Whenever I came out front, I saw flames shooting from my neighbor's house and I told my dad, 'You need to get here,' and all I saw was a whole bunch of smoke and a whole bunch of flames and it was just everywhere, the smoke was everywhere," said neighbor Serena Grata.

Neighbor Tabitha Carvella received a text message from a boy who also lived in the same house as Trey and Barnes.

"I heard someone call my sister and he was like, 'There's a house on fire,' and I said to him, 'Whose house is on fire?' and he said, 'Mine,' and my heart just dropped," said Carvella.

Fire on Pearson Street in New Castle

Carvella often saw Barnes because of her friendship with the boy.

"I'd walk by and she'd say 'hi' and sometimes come up and give me a hug. She'll say, 'Oh look at my bike,' and she's just real sweet and cute. She's like a cute little girl you'll see in a magazine. She's real cute, real pretty," said Carvella.

Those who knew the little girl and her aunt are struggling with the devastating impact of the sudden loss.

"Josalyn was so sweet. I can see still her in my mind, dancing in the hallway when I used to come and visit them, she would just twirl in circles," said Jolene McDaniel.

McDaniel was a friend of Tray and her daughter was a playmate of Barnes.

"It shouldn't have happened to her, it shouldn't have happened to that little girl either. Not at all," McDaniel said.

New Castle Fire Chief Tom Maciarello said the cause of the blaze on Pearson Street is still under investigation, but they have a theory as to what might have caused the fire. It may have been caused by an attempt to clear the odor of a sewer backup.

"They had lit candles, scented candles, in the house to get rid of the smell. Possibly, you know, something happened," Maciarello said.

Maciarello said his firefighters have met with a counselor.

"Vent what they thought and how they were feeling. They were pretty bummed out, with the four-year-old. It hits pretty hard. You know, my men got kids," Maciarello said.

Near the burned-out home, a volunteer at a ministry in the neighborhood is praying for the families of the victims.

"It just breaks my heart. I know the families, they're never going to be the same. I mean it's changed their lives in so many ways. It's just heartbreaking," said Kellie Pelini, a volunteer with Solid Rock.

The American Red Cross confirmed it's working to help those left homeless as a result of the fire.

Donations can be sent to:

Shannon Tray 2314 Hanna St. New Castle, PA 16102

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