Lewisburg house 'a total loss'

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Lewisburg man with multiple sclerosis had to move in to his parent's Fairlane Drive house Tuesday morning because his home burned at the corner of West Commerce Street and Heil Quaker Avenue, according to his mother.

Kent Wiles had been visiting with his mother, Edith Wiles, and two of her tenants in a house next to his home on Monday night, she said. Kent, who doesn't consider himself disabled, was eating a bowl of cereal with them that evening, his mother said.

"He hadn't been there 30 minutes when my other son called and said there was a house on fire next to the Century 21 office," Edith said mid-day Tuesday while telling about the call from Keith Wiles. "He asked if we were OK."

Because of the call, Edith went to the house on the corner, she said.

"The black smoke knocked me in the face," Edith said. "The firemen got it under control."

That was after the first call for firefighters at 8:53 p.m. Monday, Lewisburg Fire Department records show.

"The fire was in the hallway around the floor furnace," the department's report states, "and it had spread to he living room, bedroom and bathroom."

But the fire apparently rekindled and at 1:20 a.m., firefighters were called back out.

"These men did a tremendous job, especially with a 20 mph wind," Fire Chief Larry Williams said.

"That wind," Fire Department Training Officer Bob Davis said, "was a killer. I thought we'd lose the house behind the fire. It was blazing so bad, we had to put the deck (water) gun on it to knock it down."

Edith Wiles said, "The flames were as high as the trees."

Lewisburg Police Detective James "Pugs" Johnson, a trained fire investigator, was examining the ruins Tuesday morning in an attempt to determine why the house burned a second time, Williams said.

The chief and Capt. William Lynch went through the house twice before firefighters left the scene at 10:40 p.m. Monday.

Within three hours "fire was coming out from upstairs through the east wall and the northeast corner" of the house, the fire report states.

"We want to see where this fire started back up," Johnson said.

The floor furnace appeared to be the culprit of the first alarm, according to Williams' remarks.

"These floor furnaces have been bad about collecting dust," the chief said. "They're open. Everything settles in there...

"We don't know if that was it," Williams said mid-day Tuesday as the investigation continued.

As for the fire's effect on the house, he said, "It didn't burn to the ground, but it's a total loss."