Fire Destroys North Wheeling Structure

Photo by Heather Ziegler Firefighters dig through the remains of the burned out structure. Crews kept the fire from spreading to the neighboring occupied homes.

An unoccupied North Wheeling house was destroyed by fire early today, however city firefighters were able to save an adjacent home from the flames.

The fire call came into 911 dispatch at 3:57 a.m. when a man passing by the house at 91 National Road saw the flames. He also pounded on the door of the neighboring house, awakening the residents there. The neighboring house is just a few feet from the burned out building.

The residents of the neighboring house said firefighters were already on the scene by the time they evacuated their home. No one was injured.

Wheeling Fire Chief Larry Helms said the structure was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived minutes after receiving the call. “With 15 to 20 minutes there was a structural collapse,” Helms said.

Crews concentrated on putting out the flames and protecting the adjacent structure. The burned structure sits on the hillside of a portion of National Road just west of the Native American statue at the top of Wheeling Hill.

The owner of the destroyed structure, Loretta Seabright, said the house had been vacant for years. She had used the building for storage and did not know how the fire could have started. Fire investigators were on scene and will work to determine the cause of the blaze.

“It was all sealed up,” Seabright said. “If someone had gotten in there I don’t know how.”

She told firefighters she had a couch and other items piled inside in front of the basement door that should have prevented anyone from getting in.

Upon arrival, the fire was declared a 10-96, or “all-hands working fire,” bringing several engine companies, a ladder truck, rescue vehicle and ambulance to the scene. A fire crew remained on the scene throughout the morning, digging out hot spots in the debris. A chimney and one wall of the structure were still standing after the flames were put, causing concern for a possible collapse.