OAKVALE, W.Va. — A house was destroyed by fire on Cheesy Creek Road near Oakvale Tuesday afternoon, but quick action by firefighters may have saved another house and prevented a major forest fire.
Estaline Nelson, 87, was the only occupant in the small frame house and escaped without injury, but she lost all of her possessions.
“I was on the porch and heard a ‘pop’ sound inside the house,” she said. “I went inside and saw fire around the flue (from her wood stove).”
“My house is on fire! My house is on fire! I hollered,” she said.
John Hicks and his son Austin were visiting a family member across the road and heard her.
They said they then saw the smoke and called 911 and ran up the driveway to meet her.
“She wanted to go back inside to get her pictures,” John Hicks said. “We had to hold her back. We told her, ‘You’re not going back in there.’”
Nelson said she had a fire in the stove in the morning, but “it was going out” and she had not stoked it. She also said she had the flue cleaned out the weekend before.
“I’m okay,” she said. “But I just lost my home I’ve been in for 58 years. Everything is gone. My pictures. Everything.”
She said the house, which was a total loss, is insured.
As Nelson’s family members came to the site, volunteer firefighters from the Oakvale, East River and Athens fire departments tried to extinguish the flames that were quickly consuming Nelson’s home. They also had to spray water into the woods behind the house as a line of fire had already spread and was heading to a neighbor’s house as well as to the top of the hill behind the burning home.
“We called DNR (Department of Natural Resources) to help with the forest fire,” said Morris “Mossy” Clyburn with the Oakvale Volunteer Fire Department. “Two DNR men are at the top of the hill to try to contain it. We knocked a lot of it out down here. We had to protect that other home. But the flames got away from us (going up the hill).”
The forest fire was eventually contained, but firemen stayed on the scene to watch for flareups.
Fortunately, the house was close enough to a fire hydrant, which was on the other side of Cheesy Creek Road.
“It’s a good thing we have fire hydrants in Oakvale,” Clyburn said. “Those trucks (tankers) don’t last long (when so much water is needed).”
Clyburn said a large hose was hooked to the hydrant that fed into an East River tanker, which then sent water into an Oakvale pump truck, with two hoses attached. Both of those hoses were running full blast, first on the house then into the woods.
A remote control nozzle on top of the pump truck was also used on both the house and the woods.
“We only had three guys who could come,” he said. “We had to hustle.”
Princeton Rescue Squad also responded to the scene.
Katie Johnston, EMT, made sure Nelson was okay comforted her and other members of the family.
“I appreciate you so much,” Betty Mitchell, Nelson’s daughter, told Johnston. “I appreciate all of these firemen too.”
Mitchell said she was at home in Princeton when she was called about the fire.
She came quickly.
“I can replace her material things,” she said of her mother. “I can’t replace her. I’m just glad she got out.”
Contact Charles Boothe at [email protected].