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Empty, furnished home burns


By:  Star Beacon - Margie Trax Page

SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — What was supposed to be a vacant house on Route 20 caught fire Sunday morning, leaving firefighters to tear through the fully furnished property to search for possible victims and then ventilate the rooms through the windows and doors, Ashtabula Fire Lt. Todd Wilms said.

“We went into the house to check for people on every floor. No one was there and we knew the house was supposed to be vacant, but you never know There is always the chance of someone being in there,” Wilms said.

Wilms described the property as “furnished, vacant and unsecured.”

The shattered windows and blackened door frames of the large yellow house at 1937 W. Prospect, next door to Pizza Hut, lead to overturned mattresses and water-logged teddy bears inside, where children’s books, toys and furnishings lay ruined.

Some windows of the house were already boarded up before the fire and a padlock held a back door shut. On the door, a sign indicates the property had been winterized, a process that protects a house’s pipes when no one is living there.

Wilms said “squatters” or a person who occupies a house or property without owning or renting it, may have been living in the house.

Fire was showing from the first and second floors when firefighters from the Ashtabula Fire Department arrived at the scene at 6 a.m., with the heaviest damage in the kitchen, Wilms said.

Though the house is in Saybrook Township, a passerby saw the fire and called it in to the Ashtabula Department, Wilms said. The Ashtabula Township Fire Department and the Saybrook Township Fire Department also responded, he said.

No one was injured in the fire, Wilms reported.

Wilms said the cause of the fire is still under investigation and the total cost of the damage is still undetermined.

“The house isn’t a total loss, but I think it is a building that will never be repaired. It seems like that kind of property,” he said.

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