EAST LIVERPOOL - A three-alarm fire Thursday afternoon destroyed one vacant house and damaged three others despite the efforts of city firefighters, who were assisted by firefighters, ambulance crew members and bystanders.
The blaze began in a house on Seventh Street whose owner was not known by fire officials as of last night, although fire Chief Bill Jones said it was for sale and he believes it may be in the hands of a bank.
A person drove to Central Station just after noon to say it looked as though the house was on fire, and Jones said, "We could see it from the station. It's surprising for that time of day that it got that involved (without being noticed)."
City firefighter David Edgell (left) walks back to the ladder truck after battling the blaze at W. Seventh St. on Thursday. The fire spread to two neighboring houses.
The four firefighters on duty and Jones headed to the scene, calling out a second and third alarm that brought an additional six men to battle the blaze, which quickly spread to the rear of another vacant rental home owned by Dorsey and Joan Stowers that faces on Jackson Street.
"We pulled up and had two houses going. They had their hands full," Jones admitted.
Some members of Lifeteam and Tri-County ambulance crews who are also firefighters in other jurisdictions stepped up, manning hoses and helping firefighters pull the heavy hose across the steep street.
At least one bystander also helped pull hose as the fire continued to eat away at the first house and lick at the Stowers' property as well as a third home that rests at the corner of Jackson and Seventh.
The third house, whose owner also was not known, was also vacant and sustained damage to the attic area.
Jones pointed out that the three houses' walls were only about six inches apart, allowing the fire to spread quickly from one to the other.
A fourth rental property owned by Brian Stowers that sits across a yard from the other three sustained heat damage to the vinyl siding.
As firefighters arrived on the scene and saw the Stowers' property on fire, one headed to the front door and prepared to break it down to enter, when Mrs. Stowers began yelling, "We have a key. He's bringing the key," as her son, Brian, came across the street with the key to the door.
Either not hearing her words or believing he needed to enter quicker than the key would arrive, the fireman broke in the door, which led to an exchange between Brian Stowers and Chief Jones, who called for a police officer to either remove Stowers or arrest him.
Police Captain Terry Faulkner confronted Stowers and told him he would have to leave, pulling his Taser from its holster as Stowers continued to argue with him.
The situation was resolved with no weapons used or arrests made, and Stowers was seen later in the evening, removing items from the house, which he said will be rebuilt.
He pointed out he had recently started remodeling the house, including the new front door that was broken in during the fire.
Both the Stowers' house and the third house are repairable, according to Jones.
"The guys did one heck of a job keeping these two standing. Both can be saved if the owners choose. There were no injuries, that's what matters," Jones said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, and Jones said he could not determine whether it was suspicious until he speaks with utility companies to determine whether or not it had utilities connected.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Stowers said she believed the house that was destroyed had been empty at least five years, possibly longer, while her son produced a plastic tote filled with syringes and alcohol wipes he said he had collected from around the house at various times which he indicated may have been left behind by drug users.