Space heater to blame for house fire

PARKERSBURG – Fire destroyed a house at 4110 Eighth Ave. around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Parkersburg fire officials said.

Firefighters said the owner of the one-story house, Scott Cox, had placed an electric space heater in the bathroom in an attempt to thaw frozen water lines. He left the house to take his children to school and was gone less than an hour before the fire was reported, firefighters said.

Cox owns and occupies the house with his wife and three children, said Parkersburg Fire Chief Eric Taylor.

“The fire was well advanced before notification of the fire department,” Taylor said. “Interior fire crews managed to knock down the bulk of the fire, but the fire had traveled up the wall and extended into the attic space.”

Crews battling the fire, visible from West Virginia 95, found heavy smoke engulfing the residence. Firefighters battled bitterly cold temperatures, strong wind and icy pavement created by the fire streams, Taylor said.

Extra firefighters were called in to assist the initial crews, he said.

“Thick tongue and groove flooring in the attic area hampered access to the seat of the traveling fire,” Taylor said. “Our crews knew where the fire was located; it was just very difficult (for them) to get water on it.”

The house is considered a total loss. The American Red Cross responded to assist the family, he said.

Officials said estimated damage to the vinyl siding of a house next door, 4112 Eighth Ave., was about $3,000.

Firefighters and first responders advise residents to use extreme caution with all heating devices. A space heater should never be used to thaw frozen pipes, they said.

“In an effort to prevent frozen water lines, we recommend that the faucets be allowed to drip a little,” said Parkersburg Fire Department Capt. Tim Flinn. “If the lines do freeze, we recommend that a hair dryer is used to thaw the lines.”

Flinn said space heaters should never be left on unattended and it is recommended to allow at least 36 inches of clearance from anything combustible.