HOMESTEAD (KDKA) –-A suspect has been charged in connection with a huge fire that engulfed an entire city block in Homestead today.
The seven-alarm fire started around 4:30 a.m. in a three-story building that housed a tax office in the 200-block of East 8th Avenue. When crews got on the scene, they were told several people were trapped inside.
All-in-all, five buildings and five businesses were destroyed.
This afternoon, police were questioning one person in connection with the fire.
“All I know at this point is, it is a resident of the structure of one of the apartments, and right now, there is further investigating and interviews that need to take place with that individual,” said Chief Alvin Henderson, of Allegheny County Emergency Services.
Later in the evening, charges were filed against that man, 27-year-old Edward McDonald. He spoke to reporters as he was being led away to jail by police.
McDonald: “Yea, I guess I did.”
McDonald: “I don’t know. Maybe, I didn’t know what the day was. I don’t know, what is today?”
Police say McDonald lives in the apartment where they fire started.
According to the criminal complaint, investigators say McDonald told them he set his living room couch on fire in his second floor apartment with lighter fluid and a lighter.
The criminal complaint reports McDonald told investigators he is “schizophrenic and vaguely referred to other, unspecified mental conditions.” He also told police that “he constantly hears voices and sounds, and is tormented by visions and what the voices say to him.”
A few fellow tenants recall vague warnings from McDonald before the blaze broke out, according to the criminal complaint.
Jeffrey Walker was one of the first callers to 911.
“Smelled smoke, walked around the back of the building, saw the building being consumed, called the fire station,” said Walker. “I’m not a judge, but if he did this on purpose, he needs to be punished.”
Two people were rescued from the original building. They were taken to UPMC Mercy Hospital for smoke inhalation. When the firefighters got to the scene, only one building was on fire and they rescued the people by ladder.
More information and updates available at http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2015/01/23/breaking-news-crews-on-scene-of-5-alarm-fire-in-homestead/