Firefighters investigate death

WHEELING – City fire officials confirmed that one person died in a fast-moving house fire on Wheeling Island on Tuesday evening, while no one was hurt in a second fire that destroyed a duplex early Wednesday in South Wheeling.

The Tuesday fire at 42 Kentucky St. claimed the life of an elderly woman whose adult daughter escaped the blaze just after 7 p.m. Firefighters arriving minutes after receiving the call found flames engulfing the structure while a steady, wet snow fell on the area.

Early Wednesday, Assistant Fire Chief Larry Murphy confirmed the Wheeling Island death. However, fire officials still had not released the victim’s name by late Wednesday. The fire remains under investigation. Murphy said a large chimney in the center of the house poses a danger as it could fall at any time. Murphy said a fire crew remained at the fire scene throughout the night, dousing hot spots.

Additionally, city firefighters responded to a structure fire at 4522-4524 Eoff St. in South Wheeling at about 4 a.m. Wednesday. Firefighters encountered heavy smoke and flames upon arrival. Flames gutted the building and the heat of the fire melted the siding off a house located to the immediate south of the burning structure. That home was saved.

Murphy said the South Wheeling duplex – which was supposed to be vacant – may have been occupied by “squatters.” Someone reported seeing a woman, possibly with a baby, leaving the structure on Tuesday. No one was located in the building Wednesday morning, but a dog was found dead inside the right side of the duplex and a light was left on inside.

The building appeared to have been filled with debris that was clearly visible as firefighters dug out hot spots. Fire crews worked for nearly two hours to extinguish the fire and prevent it from spreading.

(Casey Junkins contributed to this story.)