‘Everything is gone': Fire leaves 6, including 4 children, homeless

Six people, including a mother and her four daughters, are now homeless after a fire ripped through their homes Thursday evening in McKeesport.

Authorities said the flames erupted shortly after 5 p.m. at a home on Hartman Street. Officials said the fire appears to have started in the mother of four’s home and then spread to her neighbor’s home.

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"First thing I think is if we would've been there 15 minutes earlier, we'd all be dead,” LaTheresa Festa said.

Officials said no one was injured, but said both homes were a total loss.

Festa said while she’s thankful she and her children, ages 3 to 16, are alive, she couldn’t help but think that the timing couldn’t be any worse, with Christmas just around the corner.

"Everything is gone! I asked them if they could go in and try and retrieve stuff. They told me it would be too hazardous,” she said.

Festa said $1,200 worth of gifts for her four children were among the items destroyed in the blaze.

"We had just went Christmas shopping and had all stuff hidden in closet,” Marcy Festa, the children’s grandmother said.

“They lost everything.” LaTheresa Festa’s neighbor, who was in the midst of moving in with his girlfriend, lost a majority of his possessions as well, including his clothes, television and furniture.

City of McKeesport Fire Chief Jeff Tomovosik said the weather conditions made his firefighters’ job even more challenging.

"Once the fire broke through the roof, it was fueled by the wind, which made it a little difficult,” he said. “(It) took a little bit of extra time to get it under control.”

Fire officials said the damage to both homes is extensive and they will need to be torn down.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.