Thu., 7:13am: Scenes from devastating Wellsville fire

WELLSVILLE – A fire that began in an abandoned Wellsville home spread to three other structures early Wednesday morning, leaving one village resident homeless and possibly claiming the lives of numerous pets.

The blaze started in a vacant residence at 323 11th St., shortly before 1:30 a.m., according to Dave Lloyd, acting chief of the Wellsville Fire Department. Several units from Wellsville responded within minutes and found the house fully involved, with flames spreading to the neighboring homes on either side: 321 11th St. and 1030 Commerce St., at the corner of 11th. Fire had also spread to a third structure, a garage behind 323 11th St., with apartments on the second floor. It too was unoccupied.

The house at 323 11th St. was reduced to rubble before the flames were brought under control around 4:30 a.m. The three surrounding structures remain standing, but sustained very heavy damage and are most likely complete losses, Lloyd says. “It was a bad location with everything being built up in close proximity like it is,” he said.

The house at 1030 Commerce St., is owned by Kristal Surace, who says she and her three children moved out of the residence in July. It was vacant at the time of the fire and empty of belongings, save for “a few items I didn’t get a chance to get out,” she said.

Not so fortunate is Charles Harrison, who lived in the house on the other side, at 321 11th St. According to witnesses, he was able to rescue his two pet dogs from the inferno. Several cats remain unaccounted for, however, and are presumably perished. Like 1030 Commerce St., his home is uninhabitable now, and Harrison will be staying with a friend in the village.

Lloyd says the house adjacent to the blaze on Commerce Street was sprayed down to keep the flames from spreading any farther. However, a house across 11th Street suffered damage when its vinyl siding was melted by the intense heat of the blaze. Lloyd reported a pair of cars parked at the curb nearby that also received heat damage, one of which was still there Wednesday afternoon.

Wellsville firefighters were joined by crews from Highlandtown and Liverpool Township departments. Tri-County paramedics also provided support at the scene, though no injuries were reported.

Lloyd says neither gas nor electric utilities were hooked up at the vacant house at the time, meaning an accidental ignition by either means is unlikely. “It’s not going to start on its own,” he said. “Something had to be the initial ignition.” An investigator from the state fire marshal’s office was at the scene on Wednesday to survey the damage for clues, with an official cause yet to be determined.