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Residents, animals escape fire at Parkersburg apartments

Parkersburg resident Alexis Mowbray leans against a neighbor’s garage door with her dog, Lily, as a Parkersburg firefighter helps her use a breathing apparatus for the canine. Lily was found safe after a fire Sunday at Mowbray’s 11th Street apartment building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — Five people and multiple animals were safe last Sunday after a fire at a four-unit apartment building off Murdoch Avenue.

Power lines were reported down next to 12 11th Ave. just after 2 p.m. Sunday, Parkersburg Fire Chief Jason Matthews said. While firefighters were en route, another call came in, reporting the building was on fire.

Flames were leaping out of the roof of the two-story structure that contains four apartments. Both the ground floor units were occupied, Matthews said.

The residents were able to get out safely, Matthews said. But as crews continued to work to subdue the flames, resident Alexis Mowbray was trying to find out what had happened to her pets inside.

Soon, a firefighter emerged holding a ball python named Molly. He handed the reptile to Mowbray’s neighbor, Roger Teller, who carried it into his own residence.

A few minutes later, a dog could be heard barking in a nearby alley. The animal, named Lily, rounded the corner and reunited with Mowbray, who sat beside her dog as a firefighter offered a specially made device to help the animal breathe.

“She’s my service dog,” Mowbray said later, explaining she has post-traumatic stress disorder and was distraught over the thought of losing Lily.

As Mowbray spoke, she held a soaking wet cat, named Caramel, wrapped in a shirt provided by a neighbor. She said she was still looking for another feline firefighters said had safely escaped the apartment.

Matthews said the fire was being ruled as likely accidental, related to the power lines that were downed by high winds. It was not clear whether the line touched the building after coming loose or a piece of the buildings soffit also dislodged and ignited.

“All the fire was up where the line would be touching the house,” Matthews said.

The building was considered a total loss, with a gaping hole left in its roof. Although fire and smoke damage were limited to the attic and second story, water was gushing from the open doors on the first floor.

“The amount of water that we put in it actually did do damage,” Matthews said.

It took firefighters about 25 minutes to get the fire under control, attacking it with multiple hoses from the ground and one from higher up off a truck’s ladder.

The local American Red Cross was assisting the occupants of the apartments, Matthews said.

As firefighters battled the blaze, the department received nearly a dozen other calls. Four of them were fires and at least seven involved utility lines brought down by winds, Matthews said.

A Wood County 911 Center supervisor said the winds caused several power outages Sunday. More than 800 MonPower customers around the county were without power as of 8 p.m. Sunday, according to First Energy’s website.

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

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