1 rescued, 2 die in Avalon fire

Fire engulfed the upper floors of the Marie Avenue home when firefighters arrived. Picturedat lower left in the photo are Avalon Police officers Tara Mang and Craig Cannella, who entered the burning building to rescue a first floor resident. Photos courtesy of Avalon VFC

An Avalon man is alive today thanks to the efforts of neighbors and police officers who helped him escape from a burning building in which two others died early Tuesday morning.

Avalon Police officers Craig Cannella and Tara Mang arrived on the scene to find neighbors trying to kick in the first floor door of the two-family dwelling at 115 Marie Ave. They found a mentally disabled man in his forties, known in the community as Jimmy, trying to make his way through the smoke. After he was helped to safety, the Avalon officers, accompanied by Bellevue Police Sgt. Mike Hudson, went back in the building to search the basement and first floor, rescuing three dogs in their search.

“They did a great job,” said Avalon Police Chief Tom Kokoski. He said that the officers were not injured.

It was impossible to reach the upper floors of the home, where the bodies of husband and wife Ronald (67) and Barbara (65) Wilson were later found.

Police say that Jimmy lived with his mother, who was not at home at the time of the fire.

Avalon Fire Chief Chuck Berie said that seven fire companies responded to the two-alarm blaze, quickly knocking down the bulk of the flames. Fire fighters would spend the next few hours eliminating hot spots. Although the cause of the fire has yet to be determined by the Allegheny County Fire Marshal, Berie said that it is believed to have been electrical in nature and appears to have started between the second and third floors.

Firefighters had very little room in which to work on the narrow street, but Berie said the volunteers met the challenge. “Everyone worked well together,” he said.