New Castle News

March 4, 2014

Investigators say truck fire ignited house

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Investigators determined a house fire that injured an East Side man started in a truck in a carport.

Firefighters rescued Richard Cioffi, 59, from 1421 Wilson Ave. when they entered his family’s burning one-story house just after 9 p.m. Friday and found him unconscious in the living room, about six feet inside the front door.

Cioffi remains in critical condition in Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh with burns and smoke inhalation. He was taken by ambulance to Jameson Hospital, then flown to Pittsburgh by helicopter.

A New Castle police fire marshal said the cause of the blaze is undetermined, but reported it started inside Cioffi’s Lincoln Mark LT pickup truck.

According to police, several calls had been made to 911 to report smoke coming from the house. When the firefighters arrived, flames were showing and heavy smoke was rolling out of the carport on one side of the house, officials said. The truck was burning in the carport, according to reports and heavy smoke, heat and fire were throughout the house.

The fire was contained to the kitchen and outside the house, firefighters said, but smoke and heat damage were throughout the main floor, and the basement had water damage, according to police.

A passerby who saw the smoke and called 911 had gotten Cioffi’s mother, Mabel Cioffi, who is in her 80s, out of the house, police said.

A French mastiff that was in the basement was unharmed, according to reports.

“We got her out. She was in the basement, kind of huddled and afraid,” assistant fire chief Tom Bulisco said.

Police said Richard Cioffi had been trying to rescue another pet a few feet inside the front door when he was overcome by smoke.

A bird also was rescued from the house.

Bulisco said Mabel Cioffi was with family members and the dog also was turned over to a family member. A friend took possession of the bird. Bulisco said a lot of family had gathered at the scene.