Spring Street house demolished after fire

PARKERSBURG -A Spring Street house gutted by a fire Friday morning was torn down after being declared structurally unsound.

Mayor Bob Newell approved demolition of the vacant structure on the 1300 block of Spring Street, saying he authorized immediate demolition of the home after authorities contacted him.

“We had to take this one down under emergency measures,” he said. “I understand this one was structurally poised to collapse. They asked if they could take it down for safety reasons and I told them to go ahead and take it down.”

Fire Inspector Capt. Tim Flinn said the structure had to be demolished following the blaze.

“It is too unstable for the safety of the neighborhood,” he said.

Firefighters were called to the fire at 13 1/2 and Spring streets around 1 a.m., according to Flinn. It took crews less than three minutes to respond, but they found the large, two-story structure already engulfed in flames.

“We think the fire got a head start on us. It was well-involved when we arrived,” Flinn said.

Flinn said the house, which had been vacant for some time, had been on fire at least twice before.

“This is at least the third time, that I know of,” said city Development Director Ann Conageski. She said the home has been vacant for years and is periodically occupied by squatters.

Conageski said the house already had been marked for demolition. The city planned to use CDBG funds for the demolition, which required state permission. Instead, Newell said money was used from general fund to tear down the house.

Flinn said firefighters on-scene received several reports of people inside the house during the blaze.

Fire Chief Eric Taylor said it was unsafe for firefighters to enter Thursday night and investigators would return after daylight.

“Because of the instability of the structure and the poor visibility due to darkness, we thought it would be safer and more efficient to look for evidence (after daylight),” Flinn said.

Crews remained on-scene all night for security. They entered the structure around 7 a.m. Flinn said no one was found. The captain returned again later Friday morning to continue his investigation.

The fire started in the rear of the house, on the first floor. Flinn said the cause of the fire is “undetermined” at this time.

“We have not ruled out foul play,” Flinn said of the cause of the fire.

Anyone with information on the fire is asked to contact the fire department or the city police.