STEUBENVILLE - The Wednesday morning fire that destroyed a vacant State Street house has been described as suspicious and remains under investigation today.
City firefighters were joined by firefighters from Mingo Junction and Wintersville to fight the blaze that engulfed the back of the house at 1409 State St.
Firefighters from Weirton were on standby at the North Street fire station while Hillndale firefighters manned the West End fire station.
AFTER THE BATTLE — Steubenville Firefighter Terrence Cooper and Capt. Chris Blackburn, along with a Mingo Junction firefighter, take a break after battling a vacant house fire on State Street Tuesday. The blaze that gutted the vacant house has been ruled suspicious and remains under investigation today. -- Dave Gossett
"When we arrived, we saw two young males run into the house. They quickly left the scene, but we believe they may have been trying to retrieve something from the house," Assistant Fire Chief Sam Ivkovich said at the scene.
"At this point, we are still trying to determine who owns the building. We were told an individual had been trying to remodel the house but walked away from the property because he had trouble obtaining additional financing. We also believe someone was dumping trash into the house through the back windows. There was a lot of trash in that location," said Ivkovich.
"There were several small explosions back there during the fire. That may have come from aerosol cans thrown in with the trash or from something in the house," added Ivkovich.
"It is also suspicious because there was an incident just a few months ago where one car parked in front of the house was burned and a second car had graffiti spray painted all over the body," Ivkovich reported.
Ivkovich said the electric and gas utilities had been turned off at the house before the Tuesday fire.
"Fortunately, no one was living in the house and there were no injuries. But it can be a dangerous situation with houses in this neighborhood so close together," noted Ivkovich.
The fire was initially spotted at approximately 9:13 a.m. by a motorist driving on Lawson Avenue who then drove to the Pleasant Heights fire station to report smoke and flames.
The first two firefighters from that station were immediately joined by off duty Capt. David Sullivan, who saw black smoke in the sky.
"I saw the Pleasant Heights truck pull onto State Street and I decided to assist in setting up the water line until the other firefighters arrived from the downtown and West End stations. I also tried to serve as an extra set of eyes while the guys were getting everything set up. That's kind of what we do. We see the need and we do what we can," declared Sullivan.
According to Ivkovich the Pleasant Heights firefighters were on the scene, "in less than two minutes after they received the report and the other two stations were right behind them."
Ivkovich said the house is a total loss.