A Close Call

PARKERSBURG – A Thursday afternoon fire at a Virginia Avenue boarding house left eight people displaced, injured one firefighter, and saw the rescue of a pet guinea pig from the smoke, officials said.

The Parkersburg Fire Department was called to 807 Virginia Ave. at 4:14 p.m. Thursday to a home on fire, said Capt. Tim Flinn.

Initial reports stated there were six people trapped inside the two and a half story wooden frame house by the fire, Flinn said. This included one person who was trapped and calling from inside the home, he said.

Neighbors helped the occupants to leave the burning house after the fire started in a front bedroom apartment.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation as of Thursday evening, Flinn said. Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the Parkersburg Police Department at 304-424-8444 or the Parkersburg Fire Department at 304-424-8470.

The residence was described as a boarding home by the owner, Thomas Smith Sr. The house was home to eight people, including himself, with seven apartments upstairs, he said.

The Parkersburg Fire Department arrived on the scene in rescue-mode, Flinn said. They found neighbors guiding a trapped resident down a ladder from the roof above the porch and other residents exiting through the front door, Flinn said.

Firefighters cleared residents away from the structure and began searching for others who may have been trapped inside, Flinn said. Once the home was declared clear, firefighters turned to fighting the fire, he said.

The fire was declared under control at approximately 4:30 p.m., Flinn said. Firefighters remained on the scene for three hours to monitor hot spots and investigate the fire, he said.

Firefighter Andy Nestor received a minor burn to his hand when the fire burned through his glove, Flinn said. Nestor was treated on the scene and permitted to finish his shift, Flinn said.

Ambulance crews permitted each of the residents to refuse treatment on the scene, Flinn said.

The residents of the home crowded on the bank on the far side of the street, watching firefighters rip up the siding and break out the windows.

One resident, Ethel Mason, alerted firefighters to the presence of a pet guinea pig in a room near the fire, Flinn said.

Parkersburg firefighter Scott Jenkins, of Engine 3, entered the home and retrieved the guinea pig’s cage from a smoke-filled apartment, Flinn said.

For several tense moments, firefighters examined the guinea pig on the front porch before declaring it in good condition. The cage was returned to Mason, who was relieved to have her pet, Chance, back safely.

“He suffered some smoke inhalation and he’s shaking, but he’s OK,” Mason said as she thanked firefighters for rescuing her pet.

No other pets were in the house at the time of the fire, Flinn said.

“Our firefighters did a good job of containing the fire to the bedroom of origin,” Flinn said.

The fire originated in a front bedroom apartment, Flinn said. Smoke damage affected the other six apartments on the second floor and water damage affected the first floor, Flinn said.

The damage was estimated at $30,000 on Thursday evening, Flinn said. The home was not insured, Flinn said. The American Red Cross responded to the boarding house before the Parkersburg Fire Department cleared the scene and was administering assistance to the residents, Flinn said.

Firefighters summoned the Parkersburg Police Department to assist in the investigation on Thursday afternoon, Flinn said.

Firefighters located only one smoke detector at the scene, which was described as “not in working order” at the time of the fire, Flinn said.