Angela Veri was on her way to work after dropping off her daughter at school Thursday when a neighbor called to tell her she saw smoke coming from her home on Fairview Drive in Lower Burrell.
She knew, because nobody was at home, her family was safe as firefighters from multiple departments responded to the scene.
But all Veri could think about was the tragedy that struck 30 years ago when her father was among four Harrison volunteer firefighters who died battling a blaze in Brackenridge.
The memories came back in a flood of tears as Veri watched firefighters cut through the roof of her home to extinguish the flames.
Veri’s father, Chaplain Frank Veri Jr., died along with Hilltop Hose Lt. Rick Frantz and firefighters David Emanuelson and Michael Celicki Burns while fighting a fire Dec. 20, 1991, at a furniture refinishing business on Brackenridge Avenue.
The four firefighters were part of a crew that went in the front door, not knowing the fire had been burning for several hours in a finishing room directly below.
A section of the concrete floor between them and the door collapsed, cutting off their only way out. They were immediately overwhelmed by fire.
“It’s been almost 30 years since my dad died in a fire,” Veri said. “Seeing this brought back all the memories of that day. It’s so hard.
“My husband Jason kept saying the most important thing is nobody was hurt, but we lost everything. It sucks.”
Veri said she also was anxious because her son, Blake, a volunteer firefighter with Arnold, had to respond to the fire at his own home.
Blake Veri and fellow firefighters had to deal with a steady rainfall as they stretched a supply line from a water source along Greensburg Road a half-mile up the hill to the home. Much of the firefighting operation was focused on the upper level of the two-story brick home that Angela Veri has lived in for 14 years with her husband, son and two daughters, ages 8 and 12.
“I haven’t even told the girls what happened,” Veri said. “I don’t want to call the school and have them do it, so I’m going to go and meet them.”
The state police fire marshal was called to the scene to investigate the cause of the fire.
An online fundraising effort to help the Veri family was underway at GoFundMe. It had raised $60 toward a $1,000 goal as of Friday morning.
Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368, [email protected] or via Twitter .