Two firefighters who responded to a two-alarm house fire Thursday in West Deer suffered minor injuries trying to rescue the teenage girl who was trapped inside, a fire chief said.
Dayanna Shaffer, 14, reported the fire by calling 911 from an upstairs bedroom about 9:15 a.m., said Josh Wiegand, fire chief with West Deer No. 3. She was pronounced dead after being found in a first-floor bathroom.
“The initial report was she told the 911 dispatcher that she thought she heard somebody downstairs, like a burglary, and said that she could see and smell smoke,” Wiegand said. “We don’t believe that was the case.”
“We believe that the fire downstairs was making noise at that point, either causing things to fall or glass to break, and that’s more than likely what she probably heard,” Wiegand said.
Dayanna had been home alone with her dog, Nessie, when she reported the fire. The long-haired dachshund also is believed to have died in the blaze.
“We did hear about the dog, but we did not locate a dog,” Wiegand said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Allegheny County Fire Marshal’s Office and county detectives. There were no updates as of Friday morning.
Wiegand said the house is a total loss.
“We had a collapse of the roof in the front and on the right side, so it’s going to have to be torn down,” he said.
Wiegand said two of his firefighters, in addition to two West Deer police officers, were the first to arrive.
Police and firefighters attempted to get inside but couldn’t because the fire was too intense.
“They made an attempt to go in the back door before the first arriving fire truck,” Wiegand said. “There was an interior door and an exterior door. It was kind of like a walkway. They were able to get in the first door, but they couldn’t get past the second door because of the smoke.”
Firefighters propped ladders to the second floor, where it was believed Dayanna was, and broke a window to get inside. In less than a minute, the fire flashed, and a firefighter sustained burns to his face and hand.
“His helmet, mask, coat and (self-contained breathing apparatus) were destroyed,” Wiegand said.
Another firefighter suffered a scratch to his cornea. The firefighters were evaluated at an urgent care facility and at an eye doctor’s office, respectively. They were doing OK on Friday, Wiegand said.
Dayanna was an eighth-grader at Deer Lakes Middle School, where she played flute in the school band.
The district on Thursday said it would be offering teleconference counseling for staff and students in response to the tragedy.
A GoFundMe account had been set up for the family on Thursday. As of Friday afternoon, it had reached more than $15,000 of its $17,000 goal.
“The Gilch family not only lost their daughter but they lost everything in the fire. The fire was so immense that nothing from the house can be recovered,” the account says.
“Thank you all so much for (your) generosity and kindness! It’s beautiful to see a community pulling together in this devastating time.”