By RACHEL C. DOVE
NORTH MATEWAN - Firefighters from three different stations were dispatched to a house fire in a congested neighborhood in North Matewan on Saturday, on one of the coldest days the Tug Valley had experienced this year.
According to reports from Matewan Police Chief David Stratton, Mingo County 911 received a call at approximately 4:35 p.m. of a house on fire in the Hendrick’s Orchard vicinity.
The Matewan Volunteer Fire Department arrived on scene and found a single dwelling fully engulfed in flames. Mutual aid was then requested from the Blackberry, Ky., and Delbarton fire departments, due to the close proximity of the surrounding structures.
The home was occupied by Larry Akers, and Stratton stated he wasn’t sure if Akers owned the home or if it belonged to a member of his family. The Daily News spoke with neighbors at the scene, and one of them said that Akers had come to their house asked them to call 911, saying his home was on fire.
The neighbor said that there were flames shooting from the middle section of the home at that time. One other person was inside the home with Akers, but also escaped without injury.
Stratton said Akers had reported that he believed the fire started around the fireplace chimney, but that had not been confirmed. Stratton requested the assistance of the West Virginia Fire Marshal’s office in this investigation.
A home located directly behind the Akers residence suffered smoke and heat damage to the front of the structure.
Homeowner Lowell Sparks stated he was grateful the damage wasn’t more extensive than what it was.
“The vinyl siding on the front of our home melted, and without an extensive check, that looks to be the worst of the damage right now,” said Sparks. “The flames were roaring – we could stand inside our living room and feel the heat through the window.”
“Cold days and nights raise the chances of house fires, sometimes due to unsafe heating devices,” commented Stratton. “We urge everyone to be safe. Don’t leave heaters unattended, make sure they’re vented appropriately, and don’t have them near any materials such as curtains, blankets or clothing that could easily catch on fire.
“It hurts to see any member of our community left without a home following a fire.”
Stratton wasn’t aware if the Akers’ home was insured, but listed it as a complete loss.
A total of four firetrucks responded to the scene, with an approximate total of 15 firefighters.