Two Pitt students rescue man from burning home

By Danielle Fox / Staff Writer

Not everyone can say they’ve saved a man from a burning building.

But now, two Pitt juniors can. 

Josh Yoskosky, a finance and pre-law major, said he and Joe Fogiato, a marketing and supply chain management major, were getting ready to go to the gym at about 5:30 p.m. Friday when they heard a commotion outside of their South Oakland apartment on Parkview Avenue.

Fogiato went outside to investigate the noise. After realizing the house next door was on fire, he ran back inside to put on his shoes and called for his roommate to help him. 

The burning home belonged to an elderly couple — known by the students as Mr. and Mrs. Simon — but besides neighborly pleasantries, the juniors did not know the couple all that well. 

“We saw them sometimes on their porch, but that was the extent of it,” Yoskosky said.

According to the Allegheny County Property Assessment webpage’s listing for the address, Douglas and Anne Simon are the owners of the property. 

Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Chief Darryl Jones was not at the scene, but said a space heater located too close to bedding caused the one-alarm fire.

Fires are categorized by the number of alarms, which indicate the level of response. A one-alarm fire is the lowest level. Jones said that three fire engines, a truck and between 20 and 23 members of the fire bureau were sent to the scene. 

Yoskosky said that he and Fogiato knew their neighbors were not very mobile and lived by themselves.

Anne Simon had just come out of the house and onto the porch when Fogiato and Yoskosky rushed over to help, and both students entered the burning building as she moved to safety.

“I didn’t really have any thoughts. I just kind of did it,” Fogiato said.

Yokosky said they were lucky to see their neighbor’s husband at the top of the stairs upon entering the building.

“We knew [Douglas Simon] was in there somewhere,” he said.

When the two students entered the home, white smoke was pouring out of the upstairs section behind Douglas Simon. Their neighbor was trying to go down the stairs sitting down, moving his body from step to step, according to Fogiato. 

Yoskosky said he and Fogiato ran up to Douglas Simon and helped him down the steps and out of the house.

“[We were] almost holding him up. He would move his feet stair by stair as we supported his weight,” Yoskosky said. 

Fogiato said firefighters from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire arrived about five minutes after he and Yoskosky helped Simon out of his home, but the flames quickly grew. 

“When we first got there, you could see smoke accumulated. But by the time we exited the house, two or three minutes after, you could see flames behind the window and eventually the window heated up and blew out,” Yoskosky said.

The house suffered fire, water and smoke damage, according to Jones.

Fogiato said he stayed with Douglas and Anne Simon until the fire crew had left, and a family friend came for the couple at about 6:40 p.m.

Fogiato and Yoskosky were hailed by their friends as heroes as the two sat outside the gym in the Peterson Events Center on Saturday afternoon. But Fogiato and Yoskosky disagree. 

“The terminology of ‘hero’ should be reserved for something else,” Yoskosky said. 

Fogiato echoed Yoskosky’s sentiments.

“It was more of just doing what was right, what we thought we should be doing. Not thinking, ‘Oh, let’s make a big deal out of it,’” Fogiato said.