A pan of cooking oil caught fire last Friday afternoon, destroying the kitchen of Chabad of the South Hills on McFarland Road in Mt. Lebanon.
The Mt. Lebanon Fire Department, with the aid of the Dormont Fire Department, arrived on the scene after fire alarms sounded in the Mt. Lebanon station, and Rabbi Mendel Rosenblum, spiritual leader of Chabad of the South Hills, called to report the fire.
No one was hurt, but the synagogue has incurred property damage of between $60,000 and $70,000, according to Mt. Lebanon Fire Department estimates.
The fire began around 4 p.m. on June 20, when a congregant, who had been preparing food for the following day’s kiddush lunch, left a pan of oil on a hot stove and then left the kitchen.
The kitchen door shut and locked behind her, and she was unable to get back inside to turn off the stove, according to Rosenblum.
Rosenblum was not in the building at the time.
“She called me, and she couldn’t get hold of me,” he said. “So she called Batya (his wife), and Batya called me. But by the time I got to Chabad, the kitchen smelled of smoke. The smoke alarms went off, and they’re wired to the fire department. The firefighters got there really quickly.”
The rabbi immediately removed the Torahs from the building, he said, although the fire was contained to the kitchen.
The stove on which the pan of oil was left was located near a shelving unit filled with paper products that went up in flames, according to Tim Brown, Mt. Lebanon’s deputy chief in charge of fire prevention who was on the scene.
The ceiling of the kitchen will have to be replaced, as well as the appliances and fixtures, Brown said. New dry wall will need to be installed. About $1,000 worth of food that recently had been purchased for an upcoming event had to be disposed of.
In addition to the fire damage in the kitchen, there is smoke damage in adjoining areas, according to Brown, including the synagogue’s office.
“There was a fair amount of smoke,” Brown said.
Rosenblum planned to meet with insurance adjusters and fire-restoration experts on Monday to fully assess the extent of the property loss.
Brown praised the efficacy of the congregation’s system in alerting his department to the fire, noting that no one was injured.
“The fire alarm system did a great job, and the folks did a great job,” Brown said.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)