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Vacant house set afire in Parkersburg

Structure was one of six URA voted to acquire

Parkersburg firefighters clean up at the scene of a fire in a vacant house at 14th and Ramsey streets Wednesday afternoon. It was the 29th vacant house to burn in the city this year. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — A fire was set Wednesday in a vacant house the Urban Renewal Authority voted the night before to acquire by eminent domain, Parkersburg Fire Chief Jason Matthews said.

Firefighters were called to 1300 14th St. at 12:13 p.m. Wednesday. They arrived three minutes later and had the fire under control within 10 minutes, Matthews said.

The fire was the 29th this year at a vacant structure in the city. Some have been attributed to accidents resulting from cooking or heating fires started by people taking shelter inside, but the burn pattern on Wednesday indicated some type of accelerant was used to set the fire, Matthews said. Samples were taken to determine if that was the case.

“It does appear it was set,” Matthews said. “It definitely appears that something was poured.”

The fire was contained to a single room in the house. Most of the windows were broken out, but that happened about a year ago after the house became vacant, said a neighbor on Ramsey Street, who declined to give her name.

She said she’s been concerned about suspicious activity at the house for a while.

“They’re in and out of there all the time,” the neighbor said.

Matthews said police are trying to locate a person of interest who stayed at the house periodically.

The single-story house is one of five properties the URA, consisting of all members of City Council, voted to acquire via eminent domain at their meeting Tuesday. All were approved on 6-0 votes, with three members absent.

The second acquisition approved was of 1304 14th St., two houses down. Councilman Jeff Fox asked if there had been any inquiries about the city also acquiring the property in between, but Development Director Rickie Yeager said it had not come before the Building Enforcement Agency. He recommended the URA hold the 14th Street properties in case the other property became available in the future.

Councilman J.R. Carpenter noted a construction company owns multiple properties around another of the lots, 802 Virginia Ave., and asked if they had been approached about purchasing it instead of the city. City Attorney Joe Santer said another buyer would have difficulty acquiring it because of title issues that the eminent domain process could clear.

All five of the properties approved for eminent domain Tuesday had liens on them or title issues that made them difficult to acquire otherwise, Yeager said. The other properties were a house at 1316 Oak St. and two apartments at 1113 Hillcrest St.

The URA also voted 6-0 to purchase three parcels at 202 Pickering St. for an appraised fair market value of $15,000 from the owner.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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