Yesterday evening, the Waynesburg-Franklin fire department responded to the third fire in a span of less than a week, an unprecedented number, said to the fire chief.
The fire department responded shortly before 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18 to a structure fire at 238-244 W. High St. After arriving at the scene, Fire Chief Jeff Marshall said firefighters were unable to immediately enter the building because of exploding ammunition in one of the apartments.
“The apartment that the fire started in, the occupant stated he had thousands of rounds of ammunition and multiple guns in the building,” Marshall said. “When we arrived, ammunition was exploding. It probably continued to explode for 10 to 15 minutes.”
Even though volunteer firefighters couldn’t to enter the building, Marshall said the fire department was still able to begin the process of controlling the fire. Within an hour and a half, Marshall said the fire was under control and eventually extinguished after a “couple of hours.”
Marshall said there were no injuries during the fire. The Observer-Reporter reported two house pets were removed from the building during the fire.
The fire was first noticed by one of the individuals who lived in the apartment complex. Marshall said he called 911 after further investigation.
“The occupant was around the building,” Marshall said. “He was outside and went inside, saw the glow, tried to extinguish it and went to the neighbor and called 911.”
While the building housed multiple apartments, Kalsey Insurance Agency occupies it’s ground floor. Marshall said the business suffered smoke and water damage due to the fire. The business did not respond to an interview request. In total, Marshall said he loosely estimates the damage somewhere around $250 million.
As of now, Marshall said the cause of the fire is currently under investigation. He said the fire department has done everything it can, and the case has been passed on to the state police fire marshal. The fire department will only be involved in the investigation, Marshall said, if the insurance company asks for further information.
After working with the fire department for three decades, Marshall said he’s been more active in the past month and a half than he has ever been.
“I have been doing this for 30 years now and we have never had six weeks like this, like we can remember,” he said.
From Marshall’s perspective, he’s not sure the reason for the increase in fires in the Waynesburg area.
“We don’t know why,” he said. “They are all different types of buildings; all different starts—accidental, commercial…”
Four departments assisted the Waynesburg-Franklin department in the most recent blaze on W. High Street: Jefferson, Rices Landing, Carmichaels-Cumberland Township and Center.