Fires burn at opposite ends of town

EAST LIVERPOOL – City firefighters were kept busy Tuesday, responding to two fires at opposite ends of town within hours of each other.

The first, at 827 Alton St., in the West End of town began in a vacant house, with the alarm raised at 4:21 a.m.

The two men on duty arrived with an engine within four minutes of the call, finding it fully involved with fire coming through the roof, according to Chief Bill Jones.

A third alarm was called at 4:34 a.m., bringing out an additional seven firefighters, but efforts to save the story-and-a half single family home were fruitless since it was so fully involved by that time, Jones said.

“The guys got there pretty quickly,” he said, adding it appeared the fire started on the first floor.

Police officers assisted a man in getting out of his house next door, although Jones said there was no danger that his home was going to catch fire.

“He was scared,” Jones said.

The owner of the home, located at the top of a steep, winding street, was unknown yesterday, and Jones said the fire is “definitely suspicious,” since there had apparently been no utilities connected to the home in some time.

The cause remained undetermined last night.

Firefighters cleared that scene just before 7 a.m., then at 1:43 p.m. were called out to a structure fire at 621 Minerva St. near the downtown area, where they arrived to find heavy smoke pouring from every window, although no fire was visible.

Occupant Helen Reynolds was not home at the time.

Two firemen entered the burning building and found the seat of the fire, according to Jones, who said, “They knocked it down pretty quickly. That’s what saved the house.”

He said the fact that the structure was relatively close to Central Station and that he had four men and himself on duty to make the initial attack also was “a big help.”

A third alarm brought another six firefighters back to help with the fire, with the aerial ladder used to battle the blaze from the top.

The fire “had a decent start” before the alarm was raised, Jones said, adding that fire damage was contained to the first floor, while the second floor sustained smoke and heat damage.

“The guys did a good job. It was a good save. They really worked their butts off,” Jones said of his firefighters.

He pointed out that the house next door sits barely two feet away and suffered only melted siding, with no fire extending to the structure.

A man at the scene told several firefighters and The Review he suspected the house was deliberately set afire, but Jones would not comment on that allegation or whether the fire was considered suspicious, saying only that the cause is under investigation, pending obtaining written statements from neighbors.

The house is owned by Joe Piscitani of Calcutta-Smith Ferry Road, and Jones said neither he nor Reynolds had insurance. Jones noted he will be speaking with city Planning Director Bill Cowan about the owner’s lack of insurance, which is required on rental property.