Area man injured in fire

The aerial truck pours a deluge of water onto the roof of a Ravine Street house in East Liverpool where flames ripped through the roof Wednesday morning, injuring the owner and killing his dog. (Photo by Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert)

EAST LIVERPOOL — A Ravine Street man was flown by helicopter Wednesday morning to a burn center after running in flames from his burning house.

Fire officials tentatively identified the victim as Jeffrey Nalley, who Chief Bill Jones said is listed on the county auditor’s website as both the owner and occupant of 112 Ravine St. He said neighbors believe Nalley to be in his 50s.

The alarm came into the fire station at 7 a.m., and firefighters were on the scene within two minutes, finding the two-story home fully involved, with flames shooting out of every window.

When firefighters arrived, the resident was sitting in the back of a police cruiser. Officers transported him to the hospital, from where he was flown to a burn center. Jones did not want to identify pending notification of family, although he said neighbors were not certain the man has any family.

He said officers reported the victim was conscious and talking, and Jones did not think he suffered life-threatening injuries but had not had the opportunity to speak with the man as of Wednesday afternoon.

“The neighbor said he was on fire when he came out (of the burning house),” Jones said of the victim.

Brenda Crum and Joe Coil live next door, and Crum said, “Some girl came pounding on the door telling us to get out of the house.”

She said the neighbor “was on fire when he came out,” and also said he had a dog housed in a crate inside the home.

Jones confirmed firefighters had recovered the body of the dog, inside the wire kennel, which was latched. He said they were advised the man had a cat, but a search of the rubble turned up no remains, so it was not known whether the cat may have escaped when its owner ran outside.

Jones said the house next door sustained only smoke damage, saying Crum and Coil thanked his firefighters profusely for saving their home, saying, “They were very appreciative for protecting their house. They just paid it off.”

Firefighters used the aerial as well as a pumper truck and hand-held hoses to drown the heavy flames shooting from the roof, with 11 of the department’s 13 firemen responding.

Jones said, “I couldn’t be happier how the guys worked together, considering how new and young of a department we are now. It was a good thing to see.”

For one of the newly hired firefighters, Mike Dubray, this was his first fire, and in fact he has not yet even started fire training and has no experience as a firefighter, Jones pointed out, adding he was pleased to see how well the young man worked alongside the more experienced men at the scene.

Jones also praised other city departments for their assistance, saying as soon as firefighters arrived at the scene with the first truck, the electrical service line to the house burned through and fell across the back of the truck, but firefighters were unaware until Patrolman Kelsey Hedrick yelled, “Hey, the line’s on the truck,” and it could be safely isolated.

“They could have been hurt. He potentially saved my guys. Kudos to Kelsey,” Jones said, also praising the street department, which responded immediately with salt when the heavy flow of water from hoses began to freeze on the street, making it treacherous for firefighters to walk.

Mayor Ryan Stovall also stopped at the scene and spoke with the chief.

“Every department from the city that was there worked well together,” the chief said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, with Jones saying a witness reported she had walked to the nearby Giant Eagle at 6 a.m. and returned at 6:31 a.m., according to her grocery receipt, and as she walked past the house, heard a roaring or rumbling noise.

“She thought it was coming from the vacant auto parts store and didn’t think anything of it and continued up the street. So, we’re assuming at 6:35 the house was on fire,” Jones said, saying until he can speak with the victim he won’t know whether he was asleep at the time or his whereabouts when the fire broke out.

He said there was no gas service to the house, and the resident was using electric space heaters for heat. Jones said the house is a total loss and he was uncertain if it was insured until he speaks with the resident.

Firefighters remained on the scene until about noon.

The department responded to a structure fire just a few houses up from this location last week, and Jones said there have been many fires on Ravine Street, noting, “It’s been a busy little street for us.”

Jones reminisced when he began his career with the city department 27 years ago in January, his first fires were all on Ravine Street.