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Fire Destroys Ross House Dec. 23

By Staff | Dec 29, 2010

The Ross family thankfully escaped their burning home the morning of Dec. 23. Unfortunately the New Martinsville home was a total loss and had to be demolished as soon as possible for the public’s safety as it was located close to a high vehicle and pedestrian traffic area. (Photo provided)

Approximately 48 hours before the Ross family would have undoubtedly enjoyed a happy Christmas morning, their home at 702 Maple Avenue, New Martinsville, was ravaged by fire. Thankfully the entire family, including pets, were able to escape the home that would be a complete loss.

New Martinsville firefighters were dispatched to the residential structure fire at 5:44 a.m. on Dec. 23, just as the fire crews were clearing-up a car crash at Benjamin Drive and state Route 2.The first units were en route to the scene at 5:46 a.m. and arrived on the scene on scene at 5:50 a.m.

As the first firefighters arrived, they found that the family had been safely able to exit the home.Firefighters initiated an aggressive interior attack to what appeared to be the seat of the fire on the second floor.Firefighters were met with an intense fire that, as they attacked, “flashed-over”.A second crew entered to back-up the first crew in an attempt to overcome the rapidly growing fire but were not able to overcome the intense heat and hidden fire.

Firefighters were withdrawn from the home and an exterior attack was utilized to gain control of the fire, which took nearly 45 minutes.Fire Chief Larry Couch estimated that between 35,000 and 40,000 gallons of water were used during that time.”Once we were able to regain control of the fire we re-introduced firefighters to the interior of the structure and were able to extinguish the remaining hot spots,” said Couch.

There was heavy fire damage to the second floor and attic of the home, heavy smoke and water damage to the first floor, with moderate fire damage to that floor, and heavy water damage in the basement of the home.Damages to the home were put at $40,000 to the structure and $20,000 to the contents.

The home was owned by Jim Price of North Main Street, New Martinsville, and was being purchased on a land contract by the occupant-Crystal Ross, her husband Dan, and her three children.

According to Couch, the home was what firefighters refer to as a balloon construction.Balloon construction has no fire stops in the walls; the fire can travel into the walls, floors, ceilings, and attic spaces unimpeded.”This type of construction is very common in the homes built from the early-1940’s through the early-1970’s in our area,” Couch said.The chief described these hidden passages as “small wind tunnels” when fire is introduced to them.

One of the children awoke to find their room and the rest of the house full of a heavy thick smoke.This child then alerted the rest of the family and they were able to gather the family dog and escape the blaze.

No operable smoke or carbon monoxide detectors were found in the home.”Had these detectors been in place, the family would likely have been alerted to the fire much sooner,” according to Couch.”This is a very lucky family, there was a hole burned through at the top of the step that, in minutes, would have cut off the children’s escape path, their only way out would have been the upstairs windows if they could have made it to them through the smoke and high levels of carbon monoxide.”

Both adults and the children were evaluated by Wetzel County Emergency Medical Services at the scene but refused treatment and transportation by EMS and instead choose to take themselves to the hospital where they were treated and released for the effects of smoke inhalation.One firefighter was injured as a result of a slip and fall on the ice, that firefighter was treated and released from Sistersville General Hospital later in the day, with a severely sprained knee.

The point of origin of the fire appeared to be in the walls and floor, between the first and second floor, on the west side of the home, but the fire department is declaring the fire cause to be undetermined, pending further investigation.

“We gathered some evidence at the scene, allowed the family to get any personal belongings that were salvageable,” said Couch. For the public’s safety the fire chief and the city building inspector ordered the structure to be torn down. “It isn’t often that something like this has to be done, but the stability of the home created too much danger in an area where there is an enormous amount of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.We consulted with the owners and the insurance carrier andtogether we determined that immediate demolition was the safest and best way to go,” Couch said.

New Martinsville firefighters were assisted at the scene by Paden City and Sardis firefighters, as well as the New Martinsville Electric, Street, and Water departments, Sistersville and Wetzel County EMS units, and Mountaineer Gas Company.Clarington and Grandview fire departments were on standby during the fire.

A spaghetti dinner to benefit the Ross family will be held Friday from 4-7 p.m. at the First Christian Church located at the corner of Maple Avenue and Locust Street, near Magnolia High School. It will be served on a cash donation basis.

Also, the church has been a collection point for the donation of clothing, shoe, and household goods for the family.