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Updated 4 minutes ago
Krista Lubic was working on the afternoon of Feb. 10 when her boss asked to see her.
He said her cousin had called and that she needed to call her back right away.
“I was panicking 'cause I thought it was about my daughter,” Lubic, 22, of Springdale Township said. “I went and got my cellphone, and I called my cousin.
“She's crying, and she's telling me my house is on fire. I broke down.”
Lubic rushed home. She couldn't make it all the way back, though.
She was told to park at the top of the street because of all of the fire trucks.
“I was hoping they were wrong, hoping it wasn't my house,” Lubic said. “I didn't know anything until I actually got there.”
No one was home when the blaze broke out at 860 Thompson Run Road, but fire officials say the single-family home is a total loss.
Lubic lived in the house with her dad, Alan Lubic, and her 4-year-old daughter, Phoenix Kern.
Both Phoenix and her mother grew up there.
“It really hurts 'cause this just came after Christmas, and Phoenix got all her stuff from Santa,” Lubic said.
The family lost everything. Precious mementos Lubic had of her daughter, including a certificate with Phoenix's first footprints on it, were destroyed.
An iPod containing Phoenix's baby pictures is gone.
“We have (part) of her Social (Security card), but even our fire safety box … some of the stuff in that got destroyed,” Lubic said.
Lubic said the fire was caused by a space heater in the living room, which was confirmed by Matt Brown, chief of Allegheny County Emergency Services on Tuesday.
“All indications are that the fire was the result of an operating space heater that was left running when the occupants left for the day,” Brown said.
He listed the cause as accidental.
The family has been staying in hotels, which are covered by their insurance.
Lubic said it's “weird” not sleeping in her own bed. Phoenix is also have a hard time dealing with the circumstances.
At one point she looked at her mom and said: “I want to go home.”
“It breaks my heart to tell her we can't,” Lubic said.
The family doesn't know what to do about their situation.
Lubic said their insurance will have to front the costs for the home's demolition and removal. There is also a $52,000 outstanding mortgage.
“He's just really unsure of what our next step is,” Lubic said of her father, who owns the house.
Despite the loss of the house, Lubic is grateful that her family is safe.
Another bright spot is that Lubic's brother was able to salvage her grandfather's dog tags from the rubble. Lubic's grandfather served in the Vietnam War.
“I'm very thankful we're all alive, we're OK,” Lubic said.
But the house, itself, is a “mess,” Lubic said.
The sky can be seen through the bottom floor, and the stairs leading to the attic that still look as though they would “disappear” if you stepped on them.
“It's gut-wrenching,” Lubic said. “Everything's just … ashes.”
Help trickles in for grateful family
Family and friends have already stepped up to help by providing clothing and toys, Lubic said.
A GoFundMe page started by Lubic's family had also received more than $2,100 by Friday afternoon.
“Everyone's been great,” Lubic said.
Phoenix attends a half-day pre-school program through the Highlands School District's Head Start program.
Lubic said the school has also been helping them through their plight.
“I'm so thankful for the clothes that have been given to us so far,” she said. “I have never been so happy for a pair of socks in my life.”
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4702 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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