Fire From Burning Vehicle Spreads To Green Tree Bank

GREEN TREE (KDKA) — A Green Tree bank is a total loss after flames from a burning vehicle spread to the building Saturday afternoon.

A shocking fire at a bank drive-thru catches the bank on fire, destroying the bank. Flames burst into the air and heavy black smoke surrounded the bank at the busy intersection in Green Tree near Poplar Street and Mansfield Avenue.

The car a Bellevue couple was driving caught fire while they were attempting to use the ATM at the First Commonwealth Bank at 309 Mansfield Avenue.

The bank closed at 1 p.m. Saturday. An hour and a half later, around 2:30 p.m., is when the fire began in the drive-thru.

The couple was getting out of the car to use the ATM, and they noticed immediately the car they were driving had caught fire.

An employee at the adjacent Vincent’s Pizza heard the commotion and started rolling on the shocking fiery scene at the bank on his cell phone.

Phil Bondi, an eyewitness and bank customer KDKA-TV News spoke to, was in disbelief.

“We heard popping sounds coming from the bank as we were walking up the hill,” he said.

Phil and his wife, Mary Jo Bondi, live nearby. The two had just completed their banking at the First Commonwealth Green Tree location an hour before the fire.

“It was really scary to come back up and find it in flames,” Mary Jo said.

Although too shaken to speak on camera, Dan Rusbarsky, of Bellevue, was driving the Kia with his girlfriend in the passenger seat when they stopped to get money for lunch.

Don Gaupp, Green Tree’s Fire Chief, explained what happened.

“He pulled underneath, got his girlfriend out of the car and got a little bit of burns on his leg and that’s about it,” he said.

Sierra Le Donne was driving in the car with her mom when she saw the bright flames and heavy smoke.

“I just saw a bunch of thick smoke. I didn’t even know there was a car there at first, and it just looked the whole building was on fire,” she said.

Fire officials say the wood bank structure took no time to become engulfed.

During an interview with the chief, the bank roof was collapsing. The ATM where the car pulled in and caught fire is under a canopy attached to the entire bank structure.

Luckily, no one was hurt, the couple inside the car didn’t even need to go to the hospital.

A couple standing outside the bank fire told KDKA they have a safety deposit box inside the bank with important documents and valuables and they’re were wondering if they were OK.

Customer Angela Le Donne was doing research online about her safety deposit box.

“I found they may not be fireproof or waterproof and the bank does not cover anything that’s not within an account,” she said.

Bank money is FDIC-insured but as for customers with safety deposit boxes, armed guards will be on hand 24/7 to protect valuables inside the charred bank.

In a statement from Commonwealth Bank, they say how grateful they are there was no loss of life. Several customers do have safety deposit boxes at the branch location and they are not inside a vault as they are on some bank locations, but are located inside the bank lobby. The lobby is not directly near where the fire happene,d but there is still no indication as to whether the contents of those safety deposit boxes are OK.

The bank said they would notify customers with safe deposit boxes directly when they can access their items.

A thorough damage assessment still needs to be done and customers will be notified as to when they can get their valuables and documents from those boxes. As to whether those safety deposit boxes are fire and water proof, the bank says they are not sure what material they are made from.

As for the man driving the car, he says he had just gotten his car inspected three days ago. No one knows yet what caused the Kia to combust.