Fire chief blames old construction for speed of blaze that killed man

By Rick Rouan

The Trumbull County Fire Investigations Unit is probing the blaze.

NORTH BLOOMFIELD— The house fire that killed a Trumbull County man Saturday spread quickly because of an old construction technique that uses long wooden beams from the bottom floor to the roof, the fire chief said.

“It got into the walls and then went up into the walls and got into the attic,” said Bloomfield Fire Chief Matthew Baker of the fire that began shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday at a North Park Avenue home in Bloomfield Township.

Nelson Whetson, 88, died in the fire, which fire officials believe was caused by work he was doing on the furnace or his stoking a wood burner in the basement.

Baker said that the Trumbull County Fire Investigations Unit is investigating. Firefighters from eight departments extinguished the fire, which Baker said rekindled Sunday morning.

The house likely was built in the early 1900s using “balloon” framing, which employs wood from the bottom of the house to the top, making it easier for the fire to spread in the two-story home, Baker said.

The technique is common in older homes throughout Trumbull County, Baker said.

Whetson was boarding a family of six — two adults and four children — in an upstairs apartment, Baker said.

The family heard smoke alarms and tried to rescue Whetson from the basement, but Baker said the smoke pushed them back.

The American Red Cross of Trumbull County assisted the family in finding a place to stay, Baker said.

The call came to the department at 6:06 p.m., and firefighters were on the scene at 6:17 p.m., Baker said.

Firefighters pulled Whetson out of the burning home, and he was transported to Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital, where he died, Baker said.

The fire and cause of death are under investigation, but Trumbull County Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk said there is no evidence of foul play.

Germaniuk said a final cause of death would be determined once the Fire Investigations Unit completes its investigation.

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