By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian
The fire that heavily damaged a Locust Avenue building last week has been determined by the State Fire Marshal’s Office to have been arson.
The fire occurred at 1637 Locust Ave., an apartment building.
“The fire originated in the basement stairwell and was determined to be intentionally set,” Assistant State Fire Marshal Mackey Ayersman said in a press release.
“The tenants had just moved out of the residence that day and the structure was vacant at the time of the fire.”
The fire was toned in as “a working structure fire” at 4:12 p.m. April 24.
First responders found heavy smoke rolling out of the downstairs windows. They worked quickly to knock the flames down.
Firefighters removed several mattresses that may have contributed to the fire. They also knocked several windows out for ventilation.
At the time, Fairmont Fire Chief Jim Emerick said the fire was believed to have begun in and spread from the basement.
They also went through the smoldering building to make sure the fire hadn’t spread into the walls. Then it could have spread to adjacent apartments and nearby buildings.
“This house here connects to those apartments there, so we have to make sure it doesn’t get there,” Emerick said at the time.
Determining whether a fire is the result of natural causes or arson is kind of a process of elimination deal, Emerick said.
“The first thing is they locate the origin where the fire started. Then it’s a process of elimination about what could have caused it. If there was no power in the structure, the fire couldn’t be electrical. If there was no gas, it couldn’t be fueled by natural gas.