Police looking for suspect in two house fires

PARKERSBURG – Parkersburg police are looking for a suspected arsonist after a fire Wednesday morning on Spring Street.

The fire occurred around 8:55 a.m. Wednesday at 1702 Spring St., said Sgt. Greg Collins, spokesman for the Parkersburg Police Department.

The house, owned by Ray and Lisa Weaver of Williamstown, was not occupied at the time of the fire, police said. Officials said the house was a rental property and the utilities were on.

Upon arrival, firefighters reported a fire with heavy smoke and flames visible from a basement window, officials said.

Fire units forced entry into the house and used a cellar nozzle to pierce through the floor and into the basement compartment, knocking down the fire within minutes, said Chief Eric Taylor with the Parkersburg Fire Department.

“Basement fires can be very difficult to fight,” Taylor said. “While you are traveling down, you are essentially walking down a chimney with flames and hot fire gases traveling up.”

Taylor said the cellar nozzle is spear-shaped to puncture the compartment followed by a sprinkler head supplied by a hoseline.

Damages to the house were estimated at $20,000, officials said.

Students at Mountain State College were said to have witnessed a male running from the scene, firefighters said.

The man police are searching for is described as white, in his late 20s, dark hair, no facial hair, athletic or thin build, 5-foot-7 to 6-foot tall, wearing a blue T-shirt over a white thermal undershirt and blue jeans, Collins said.

The fire was the second on Spring Street in the last five days; both have been ruled arsons, Collins said. The first fire occurred around 1 a.m. April 12 at 1320-1322 Spring St.

Capt. Tim Flinn, chief fire inspector with the Parkersburg Fire Department, said having multiple points of origin with a fire is an indicator of arson.

Flinn said inspectors are able to determine if a fire has been intentionally set from burning patterns, evidence collected on scene and damage sustained. He said another strong indicator is when there is no heat source in the house.

“Multiple points of origin lead us to believe it was incendiary causes,” Flinn said.

Witnesses can contact Detective J.M. Stalnaker or Detective D.A. Moody at 304-424-8444 or the Parkersburg Fire Department at 304-424-8470. Anonymous tips can be left at www.parkersburgpolice.com or www.onlyminutesaway.com.