Crews Battle Massive Structure Fire in Downtown Wellsburg

Wellsburg police: Two juveniles in custody, suspected of setting fire

Photo by Warren Scott Part of the outer wall of the former Genpak factory collapses as a suspected arson fire destroys the building at 18th and Charles streets in Wellsburg on Monday.

WELLSBURG – Area firefighters remain at the scene of a suspected arson fire that burned through the former Genpak factory on Charles Street today.

Wellsburg police Lt. Lester Skinner said two juveniles have been arrested and face arson charges. He said it appeared they were using lighter fluid to set fire to cardboard boxes inside the building.

The juveniles may have entered the former factory at the corner of 18th and Charles streets through a broken window, according to Skinner. Two Brooke County sheriff’s deputies and a Wellsburg police officer escorted the two from the building as the fire was starting, he said.

Wellsburg and Follansbee firefighters stood atop ladder trucks at the north and south ends of the building and on the west side with hoses to douse flames lashing from windows of the two-story, high-roofed structure.

As it burned, sections of the outer wall collapsed, with some brick falling onto the adjacent sidewalk and a utility line at the building’s corner dropping to the street.

Pumper trucks from neighboring departments were dispatched because a line break resulted in low pressure to nearby hydrants.

Members of the Hooverson Heights and Avella, Pa. fire departments were among those that joined firefighters at the scene.

Flames and large clouds of black smoke emanated from the building and residents watched from along W.Va. 2 and other areas of the city as well as Charles Street. The massive plume of smoke could be seen for miles around, and even was visible on radar.

After the fire appeared to be extinguished, a local contractor was called to demolish what remained.

The building was home for many years to Mammoth Plastics but hadn’t been in use for many years.

In recent years, Wellsburg officials have pursued funds for an environmental assessment of the site, hoping to rehabilitate it for future use.