Fire investigated

Firefighters spray water on homes that were destroyed in a fire at the corner of Commerce and Ninth streets in Wellsville late Tuesday night. (Photo by Patti Schaeffer)

Firefighters spray water on homes that were destroyed in a fire at the corner of Commerce and Ninth streets in Wellsville late Tuesday night. (Photo by Patti Schaeffer)

WELLSVILLE — Investigators are trying to determine what caused two homes — one already scheduled for demolition — to be destroyed by fire late Tuesday evening.

Fire crews from Wellsville were called at 9:43 p.m. regarding homes on 900 Commerce St and 402 Ninth St., both of which were in flames.

A third house also sustained heat damage and is occupied. Wellsville police officers alerted the occupants of that house and got them out safely.

Liverpool Township and Highlandtown Volunteer firefighters assisted the village department as they worked for more than six hours overnight to extinguish the blaze. Crews did bring it under control within 45 minutes of arriving on scene, Wellsville Fore Chief Barry Podwel said at the scene.

An excavator was brought in to help firefighters get the houses completely extinguished.

According to Podwel, the fire started at the Commerce Street structure and then spread toward the Ninth Street residence — the two homes stand within a couple feet of each other. No one was reported to be inside either building at the time.

According to Podwel, the Commerce Street home was owned by the Columbiana County Land Bank and was one of 13 structures in the village scheduled to be torn down as part of the county program. Podwel said that structure was a total loss and was torn down shortly afterward due to safety concerns.

“There’s nothing that we could investigate, we had to tear it down,” Podwel said. “900 Commerce Street was supposed to be torn down within the next week or so.”

Podwel said the Ninth Street home, owned by Quynnis L. Branham of Columbus, Ohio, according to records from the county auditor’s office, was heavily damaged and had no power to it at the time. He said that one woman, Kaylynn Keener, was in the process of moving into the residence, but did not have any of her personal belongings inside at the time.

“There was nothing in the house whatsoever, maybe a refrigerator or something like that, but nothing else,” Podwel said. “There was no furniture or anything like that. I think she told me she brought a couple bags of stuff in, but I think it was moreless to clean and get everything cleaned up before she started to move her stuff in.”

According to Podwel, one firefighter–Paul Bahen of the Liverpool Township crew–suffered a medical emergency on the way to the scene and was taken to East Liverpool City Hospital for treatment. Podwel said aside from Bahen’s medical issue, no other injuries or hospitalizations regarding the fire were reported.

Crews were able to clear the scene around 4 a.m. Wednesday. The exact cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The State Fire Marshal was notified and was expected to be at the scene Wednesday morning.

(Photographer Patti Schaeffer contributed to the story.)

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