WELLSVILLE — The first beautiful, sun-soaked Sunday afternoon of 2017 was no day of rest for volunteer firefighters in Wellsville.
Around 5:15 p.m., residents of the village heard explosions, then the sight of flames coming from a garage on 4193 State 417 (at the corner of Florida Avenue) could be seen for a half-mile away and smoke in the air was visible on Main Street.
When firefighters from the Wellsville Volunteer Fire Department arrived, the flames were hitting the house. Firefighters first stopped the fire for a moment from spreading, then stopped the fire from destroying the house, as the siding was melting away.
First Assistant Chief Barney Dillie said Monday that the fire is still under investigation by county fire investigators. He declined to speculate on whether the fire was accidental or suspicious. He said it typically takes a week or two for investigators to finish and submit a report.
“There were no explosives found at the scene of the fire. There were no explosives involved in this fire,” he said. “They (the explosions people heard) would be things like aerosol containers and paint containers."
“It’s typical for a garage fire to have sealed containers in it that, when heated, may expand. There was probably, at one point, a tire, which was probably the loudest one that people may have heard,” Dillie said.
Dillie said the garage was a total loss.
On Facebook, you can watch a tape-delay from the live video of the incident, which was an hour and seven minutes on video at the Wellsville Daily Reporter Facebook page.
During the end of the incident on video, Dillie said, “We worked very well as a team. The initial company hit it with a deck gun, and we were establishing water supplies and they had a great knockdown on it. It was a troublesome fire because of the gasoline that was still spilling out of the gas tank of the vehicle and we had to stop it with a continuous stream of foam.”
“Basically, there was a good smoke header going on it. We had already called in mutual aid (on the way to the scene) in case we had a water supply problem,” he continued. “We had three hydrants hit to supply the fire.”
How did they save the house? Dillie said with a smile, “Just lucky, I guess!”
Dillie said Wellsville received mutual aid from Petrolia/Scio Fire Station 2 and Allentown and Andover fire departments.
“I believe we were actually on scene for a little over two hours and then it took another hour to get our equipment back in service,” he said.
Second Assistant Chief Kevin Fleischman said, “It looked like a vehicle fire that started in the garage, and extended. It got going very good as we were arriving. We had trucks on the road within two or three minutes of the alarm and 50 or 60 guys who made a good stop to save the house as the siding was catching on fire, then a good knockdown of the fire itself.”
The homeowner, Todd Moyer, watched from the porch with family as the drama unfolded and firefighters saved the home. Moyer’s family said some windows broke from the heat but there was minimal water damage inside, mostly smoke.
“The response time was great, the firefighters were here in no time,” said Moyer. “Saving the house is a key for them, but no injuries to the firefighters is what mattered to me the most.”
Moyer said the garage is a total loss along with his motorcycle, a GMC Yukon, a tractor, mowers, a snowblower, tools and other garage items.
Moyer added, “The firefighters were amazing. I have a cast on one foot so I was no help to anyone and had to sit out of the way. I watched the (Daily Reporter live video) and I don’t know where to begin when saying ’Thank you.’ The video was tough to watch, but it gave us a different view and perspective into what happened and how much hard work goes into fighting a fire.”
At 7 p.m. firefighters were called out to a carbon monoxide call on Maple Avenue. Two trucks and the volunteer ambulance squad, who were also at the fire, responded. They checked levels at two apartments as the alarm went off, but the levels were low and safe. However, firefighters called in National Fuel for a second reading. Residents got out and were not sick, fire officials said.