By PAMELA SCOTT JOHNSON
July 23, 2012
EAST WILLIAMSON - Shortly after 8 a.m. Monday morning, the Williamson City Fire Department was dispatched to the scene of an alleged structure fire by Mingo County 911, that had been reported by Norfolk Southern Railroad employees who had spotted the smoke coming from the residence from where they were working in the Williamson Yard.
The first to respond were Lt. Steven Casey and Firefighter Matt Hatfield, who accessed the location from the Sycamore Street side. Additional firefighters were dispatched and responded via the E. 4 th Avenue route.
According to information provided by Williamson Fire Chief Jerry Mounts, the 950 E. 4th structure that had been owned by the late Cornelius Strothers and Ron Vine, was discovered to be in an open burning stage originating from a fire that started above the ceiling, that had spread down the wall between the kitchen and bathroom and likely had been smoldering throughout the early morning hours until it evolved into the open burn stage.
The blaze was brought under full control in 10 minutes and extinguished with one pre-connected attack hand line from the 500 gallon water tank carried on the engine company. During the course of the investigation into the cause of the fire, it was discovered that the structure has been unoccupied for several months and had no electrical, gas, or water utilities in service. The investigation also revealed that a gable vent cover accessible only from Sycamore Street had been removed providing access to the point of origin of the fire.
Due to the fact that no utilities were in service that could have possibly provided a source of ignition, the clear evidence that entrance to the structure had been gained forcibly by removing the vent and the resulting position the vent cover was discovered lying in the dwelling, and finally, the fire originating in the attic which could only be accessed by removing the cover, the fire has been ruled incendiary in nature.
No other homes in the direct vicinity received any damage from the fire, according to the chief.
Several residents in the neighborhood were interviewed with one providing testimony to Chief Mounts that at approximately 2 a.m., the individual recalled smelling something like smoke and wondered if something was burning in the area.
The Sycamore Street area is secluded and provides easy cover for someone to commit a crime such as arson. If anyone has any information that may help determine who set the fire, you are urged to call the Williamson Fire Department at 304-235-5273, or the Williamson Police Department (WPD) at 304-235- 2570. Your identity does not have to revealed, they’re only interested in the information you possess.
The fire has been reported to the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office and there is an ongoing investigation. The fire department was assisted at the scene by Patrolman D. Paige with the WPD, who provided traffic control.
Chief Mounts extended a special than you to the NS Railroad employees for reporting the fire, and stated that there have been numerous occasions of such reports in the past, due to the clear view the railroaders have of the East Williamson community from the Railroad Yard.