WELLSVILLE - A cluster of abandoned structures on the west side of Wellsville were claimed by an inferno at the corner of Main and 18th streets early Monday morning.
Firefighters arrived at 1747 Main St. shortly before 2 a.m. to find a fire that was rapidly spreading from the corner building, site of a former bar, to the debris pile from an adjacent abandoned structure that had been razed only a month before. The third structure was a house that was also empty due to the danger of collapse from the center building before it was demolished.
Though fire crews finally left the scene at 11:30 a.m., one engine was called back to the corner Monday afternoon for firefighters to douse hot spots that remained stubbornly smoldering in the blackened pile of debris. Both of the buildings that were standing at the time of the fire are total losses.
Residents living in the vicinity of the fire lost electrical service when flames badly scorched a nearby utility pole holding a power transformer. AEP Ohio repair crews were on the scene before 3 a.m. and had power restored to customers before noon.
Wellsville sent 11 firefighters in two fire engines and a rescue unit, and were assisted by Highlandtown and Liverpool Township firefighters, as well as personnel from Tri-County Ambulance. No injuries were reported.
The combined fire was so large and the heat from its flames so intense that vinyl siding on the front of Curt Myers' home, located across 18th Street from the buildings, was warped. "My nephew put that on there about two or three years ago," he said. "I've got to redo it all over again now."
Myers says he first noticed the fire at approximately 2:15 a.m., when he heard the siren of a police cruiser that blocked the corner of 18th and Main before firefighters arrived. According to Myers, the fire moved very quickly. "By the time I got out of my bed and looked out the window, the whole front floor was fully engulfed. By the time I came out the door, it was gone," he said.
On the other side of the flames, residents and fire crews hosed down a neighboring mobile home on Main Street to keep it from being damaged. Though they largely succeeded, the heat was intense enough to melt plastic window blinds in the windows facing the fire.
Some residents believe that the fire was purposely set to rid the neighborhood of the decrepit structures, especially considering that gas and electrical service had been shut off to the two standing buildings. According to Wellsville Fire Chief Bill Smith, officials from the state fire marshal's office have been on the scene and are conducting an investigation.
In the midst of fighting the blaze at 18th and Main, one engine and four firefighters were called away at 2:41 a.m. for a small fire at a detached garage on 14th Street. Wellsville VFD firefighter Jason Mitchell said that structure received mostly smoke and water damage. An electrical short is suspected as the cause of that fire.