Fire Claims Life

WHEELING – Wheeling fire officials confirmed that a woman died in a fast-moving house fire on Wheeling Island on Tuesday evening while no one was hurt in a second fire that destroyed a duplex early today in South Wheeling.

Tuesday’s fire at 42 Kentucky St. claimed the life of an elderly woman whose adult daughter escaped the blaze just after 7 p.m. Firefighters arriving minutes after receiving the call found flames engulfing the structure while a steady, wet snow fell on the area.

Assistant Fire Chief Larry Murphy today confirmed that one woman perished in the Kentucky Street blaze.

The name of the victim was not available at press time. The fire remains under investigation. He said a large chimney in the center of the house poses a danger as it could fall at any time. Murphy said a fire crew remained at the fire scene throughout the night, dousing hot spots.

Fire investigators will be back at that location today to work to find a cause of the fire. Fire Chief Larry Helms said Tuesday the cause has yet to be determined and noted the house was destroyed. A second alarm was called and off-duty firefighters were alerted to man city stations.

A crowd of onlookers gathered at the scene despite the smoke and snowy conditions. Fire crews worked to protect a large multi-story home located adjacent to the burning structure. They managed to save that home from extensive damage.

Meanwhile, city firefighters were called to a structure fire at 4522-4524 Eoff St. in South Wheeling around 4 a.m. today. Firefighters encountered heavy smoke and flames upon arrival. Flames gutted the building and the heat of the fire melted the siding off a house located to the immediate south of the burning structure. That home was saved.

Murphy said the duplex, which was supposed to be vacant, may have been occupied by “squatters.” Someone reported seeing a woman, possibly with a baby, leaving the structure on Tuesday. No one was located in the building this morning, however a dog was found dead inside the right side of the duplex and a light was left on inside.

The building appeared to have been filled with debris that was clearly visible as firefighters dug out hot spots. Fire crews worked for nearly two hours to extinguish the fire and prevent it from spreading.

Casey Junkins contributed to this story.