Ohio Fire Marshal Will Investigate Blaze at Former Nursing Home in Belmont

Photo by Shelley Hanson Firefighters exit the former Bell Nursing Home in Belmont after a battling a blaze there on Wednesday.

Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office investigators are expected to delve into whether a fire Wednesday at the former Bell Nursing Home was set intentionally.

Belmont Volunteer Fire Department Lt. Kaye Hall said Thursday that investigators had not yet arrived on scene, located at 42350 National Road, Belmont, but they are expected in the next few days.

Meanwhile, the building’s longtime owner, Michael Maistros of St. Clairsville, said he expects to have the damaged portion of the building boarded up soon.

“We will be taking care of that shortly,” Maistros said Thursday.

Maistros said the original building was constructed in the 1950s as a hotel. His father, the late Gust Maistros, converted the building into a nursing home in 1968. It closed in 2006. Both Maistros and his father worked as administrators there.

“It was one of the best nursing homes in Belmont County for a long time,” Maistros said. “There is still a lot of staff in the area. They’ve improved themselves by going to school. They’re nurses now but were aides before. I’m pretty proud of the fact that we’ve helped in that manner anyway.”

Maistros said Belmont College still gives a nursing scholarship that is named after his father to deserving students.

After his father died several years ago, Maistros said the family carried on the business for many years. In 2006, he sold the certificate of need, or the rights to the beds, to another company that took the beds to different facilities.

“You can’t just build a building, unless it’s changed. There’s always been a certificate of need that is required to build beds or move beds. That’s the process,” Maistros said. “We were very fortunate that it was around that long and we were with it. It was a good nursing home with a great staff who kept the operation moving very smoothly and well.”

Maistros said he does not expect to try and save the building. He believes demolition is in its future.

“It’s run its course. It’s deteriorating and due to be torn down,” he said.

The fire Wednesday was reported to authorities at 3:01 p.m. Neighbors in the area said they heard a loud “pop,” before the fire occurred. Hall said the fire department does not officially believe the fire was arson, but that is up to state investigators to determine anyway.

Witnesses at the scene told fire officials they believed there may have been squatters using the building, while others alleged it was a drug house. Maistros said he had “no knowledge” of any such activities happening inside the building.

He added that one fire official told him the state may not investigate the fire since he did not have any insurance on the building. Maistros said he has had the building and land listed for sale with Harvey Goodman Realtor for about two years.

During the fire, a section of U.S. 40 was closed to traffic near the former nursing home, which is situated between St. Clairsville and Morristown, while firefighters worked to douse the blaze. Motorists traveling along the highway were forced to turn around on the road or in nearby parking lots.

In addition to the Belmont VFD, firefighters from Morristown, Barnesville, Lafferty, Bethesda and Cumberland Trail also responded to the blaze.

On a side note, Maistros said former employees of the nursing home have periodic reunions at Morristown park. He said about 20-25 years ago, the workers made a time capsule. He said sometime next year they likely will open that time capsule during another reunion.

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