Christmas fire kills three pets; leaves couple homeless

PARKERSBURG – Tragedy struck home for one Parkersburg family as firefighters battled a Christmas morning fire at 2607 Beech St. that left a couple without a home and one dog and two cats dead, officials said.

At 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, a passer-by noticed smoke coming from the structure and alerted firefighters to the fire at the Beech Street apartment, positioned above a garage.

No one was home at the time of the fire, but one dog and two cats died during the blaze, said Captain Craig Wix with the Parkersburg Fire Department.

The apartment was owned by Mark Cunningham, and was rented by Shawn and Tammy Fullerton, said Parkersburg Fire Department Chief Eric Taylor. The damage from the fire is estimated at $45,000, said Taylor.

The family lost most of its possessions in the fire, and have been displaced due to the damage, said Taylor. The couple is being assisted by family and friends. The couple was visiting family in Harrisville when the fire started, Taylor said. They were alerted to the fire by the 911 Center.

“Since the occupant was not home, there was a significant delay in the fire being reported. The fire was well advanced before firefighters were notified,” said Taylor.

Fire Station 4 was the first to arrive on the scene, said Wix, and was soon joined by units from the other stations in town. Station 4’s firefighters reported heavy smoke coming from the apartment when they arrived.

The fire was significant, but the structure was not fully involved before firefighters arrived, Wix said. The nearest hydrant was a block away and allowed firefighters to combat the blaze promptly. Firefighters used two handlines and performed an aggressive interior attack to save the structure, he said.

The fire was declared under control approximately 15 minutes after firefighters began battling it, although it was too late to save anything within the home, Taylor said.

The fire is believed to have started in the kitchen of the apartment, he said. The majority of the damage was contained to the kitchen, but significant smoke and heat damage ruined almost everything else in the apartment.

The fire burned through the floor and damaged the garage beneath the apartment, Wix said.

The dog and two cats had already succumbed to smoke inhalation by the time firefighters arrived, said Taylor.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation at this time, although it appears to have been accidental in nature, said Wix.