Burned house won’t be immediately destroyed in Washington

January 2, 2013
This house at 456 Broad St. in Washington was destroyed by fire Friday. - Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A Washington house destroyed by fire Friday will remain standing until the owner comes forward to either repair the structure or tear it down.

Fire broke out in the upstairs front bedroom of the two-story house at 456 Broad St. at 4 a.m. Friday. Firefighters arrived within three minutes of a neighbor calling 911 to begin fighting the raging blaze that took four hours to extinguish.

The cause of the fire has not been and may never be determined due to the extent of damage, according to city fire Chief Linn Brookman.

“It’s still under investigation, but it was believed to have been arson,” Brookman stated.

No one was inside the house at the time of the fire. According to city and county tax records, the building is owned by Debnar Holdings Corp. of Marianna. Brookman said ownership recently was assumed by Northwest Bank.

The house is believed to have been unoccupied.

Capt. Jerry Coleman, who serves as the city’s building code officer, said city police had reported running vagrants out of the building over the past several months. Gas service had been shut off, but the electricity was still connected.

Although damage to the structure was severe, Coleman said the building is still structurally sound, causing no imminent danger to the public.

“It’s not a hazard of collapsing,” said Coleman, adding a threat to public safety would be needed in order for the mayor to ask the court to approve the building’s immediate destruction, as was done with a house on Church Street that was in such poor shape that it was literally leaning on an a neighboring house.

After court approval, the Church Street house was demolished within days.

“It will takes months” before anything is done with the Broad Street house, said Brookman.

Until then, the building’s windows and doors will remain boarded to prohibit anyone from entering it.

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

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