Parkersburg structure demolished after fires

PARKERSBURG -The city demolished a Spring Street structure destroyed by a pair of fires on Monday.

Demolition crews knocked down the three-story house Tuesday afternoon after it had been declared unsafe and in need of emergency demolition.

“At this point, it is not safe to go in,” said Parkersburg Fire Department Capt. Jim Tracewell.

The vacant structure at 1326 Spring St. caught fire twice in a 48-hour span. Chief Fire Inspector Tim Flinn said the cause of the fire appears to be arson.

“There were no utilities to the origin of the fire and it had been vacant for some time,” Flinn said.

Tracewell said the house has been vacant for months after an electrical fire.

Early Monday morning, it appeared someone threw what could have been a Molotov cocktail into the back entranceway of the structure, he said. Around 11:30 p.m. Monday, a second fire was ignited in the structure, which Tracewell said rekindled Tuesday morning.

Most of the structure was heavily damaged and unsafe to enter. The roof buckled in several places and officials were concerned about a collapse.

Fire crews taped off the structure and adjacent lot and were on standby to prevent anyone from entering while code enforcement assessed the scene.

Tracewell said firefighters can’t allow such structure fires to become controlled burns. He said one obstacle to that is Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Tracewell said when fire departments perform scheduled controlled burns for training on structures, shingles and insulation must be removed.

“There’s a whole book of stuff,” he said.

There is also the possibility a controlled burn could spread to a neighboring house, which would make the fire department and the city liable for damages, he said.

Officials identified the property owner as George Ross Sr. and his daughter Robin Massey. Code Enforcement Director Gary Moss said Ross’ property is under the conservatorship of the Wood County Sheriff’s Department tax office.

Rick Wolf is the court-appointed attorney for Ross’ guardianship proceedings. Wolf said Ross owns a life estate in the property, responsible for the collection of rent as well as maintenance and upkeep.

Bob Tranquill, chief tax deputy, said the court system put Ross’ property and funds in care of the tax department. He said Ross has about a dozen properties in the city.

“Probably half of them should be torn down,” he said.

Officials demolished Ross’ adjacent property, 1322 Spring St., in April when it was destroyed by a fire that started in the rear of the building. That house had been vacant for years, except for periodic invasion by squatters.

“There has been a history of fires at that address, some that were accidental,” Flinn said.

Tranquill said the county has been involved in the Ross matter for about two months.

“It’s a mess,” he said.