WHEELING - Fire broke out in an apartment building at 2615 Warwood Ave. late Thursday afternoon, bringing rush hour traffic to a standstill as the Wheeling Fire Department fought to extinguish it.
Building resident Brittany Bruce called 911 after she saw smoke coming from the air vents. She said she tried to get upstairs to help her neighbors but could not reach them.
"I couldn't get in," Bruce said as she watched fire crews battle the blaze with her two dogs by her side, having fled her ground-floor apartment to the street. "I tried."
Photo by Daniel Dorsch
The Wheeling Fire Department works to put out a fire at a three-story building along Warwood Avenue on Thursday afternoon.
As she and her mother watched the building burn, Bruce speculated that the damage was likely to be severe.
"It's not looking so good," Bruce said.
The three-story house was divided into at least three separate rental apartments on different levels. Bruce feared the worst for her neighbors as flames began burning the roof of the building.
"They think it started in the basement," said eyewitness Jackie Myers.
Wheeling Fire Department Assistant Chief Tony Campbell was among the first responders to arrive. He said the department received the call about 4:15 p.m. and stayed on scene until the fire was completely extinguished. He said no one was injured by the blaze.
"There was no one inside," Campbell said as crews worked to put out hot spots. "The fire started out in the basement apartment."
He said the fire actually began in the living room of the basement apartment and worked its way up through the walls. According to Campbell, the building's design had a lot to do with the spread of the flames.
Campbell said older buildings like the one at 2615 Warwood Ave. used a method of building called "balloon construction," which has little to no separation of structure walls between levels.
"Fire takes the path of least resistance, and the walls offered little resistance," Campbell said. "Once it gets into the walls, they're done. It's a total loss."
Campbell said neighboring houses were not damaged by the fire. He said some flames were blowing from the top of the structure that threatened to spread, but firefighters were able to keep it contained until it was out.
Firefighters used chain saws to cut a hole in the roof for ventilation, according to Campbell. The Wheeling Fire Department attacked the blaze from above and below. Large flames were concentrated in the middle and rear sections of the building.
As the firefighters worked, Wheeling police were called in to direct traffic. The section of Warwood Avenue/W.Va. 2 near the building was closed for the duration of the blaze in both directions to give emergency personnel room to work.