Neighbors continue to recover following fire

WELLSVILLE – A fire that leveled two homes, left a third uninhabitable and damaged numerous others in Wellsville early Sunday morning remains under investigation.

Marcus Dalrymple from the Wellsville Volunteer Fire Department says investigators from the state fire marshal’s office have been at the scene on Commerce Street, but not yet determined a cause for the blaze.

The home of Mark Van Kirk, his wife Lori and their son Luke at 1224 Commerce St., was the initial source of the fire. Driven by winds gusting to more than 30 mph, the flames quickly spread to 1228 Commerce St., next door, occupied by Misty Shaw and owned by Nina Graves. By the time the inferno was brought under control in the early daylight hours, 1224 and 1228 were destroyed, with 1222 Commerce St. – occupied by Brittany Blake and her children, and owned by Kenneth Hayhurst – sustaining severe damage.

In addition to those three houses, five surrounding structures were damaged, as well as a parked car.

One of those homes was that of Michael Clevenger of 1225 Commerce St. The blue vinyl siding that covers his residence was badly melted by the intense heat radiating from across the street. “It could have been worse,” he said philosophically.

Clevenger says he was just falling asleep around 3 a.m. when he heard the sound of loud knocking on a door. He looked out his window and saw the first floor of 1224 in flames and a man frantically asking for someone to call the fire department, which Clevenger did.

Seeing the house next door touching off, he decided to evacuate his family. “I just gathered everybody up, gathered the animals up and we left,” Clevenger said. That included himself, his girlfriend and their daughter, as well as family staying with them from out of town.

“Brother-in-law, sister-in-law, their son and my niece stayed over that night,” Clevenger said. “There were seven of us in the house. Plus two cats and a turtle,” he laughed. They fled to his mother-in-law’s home on state Route 45 for the rest of the night.

Though everyone who lived in the destroyed homes escaped without injury, the Van Kirks and Shaw lost all their possessions. Collections of clothing and monetary donations are being accepted by members of the group Eyes on Wellsville, who can be reached via their Facebook page.