House fire in Austintown causes $60,000 in damage
By Elise Franco
Two people escaped a house fire that caused nearly $60,000 in damage, a situation complicated by ammunition in the basement.
Assistant Fire Chief Andy Frost III said the blaze broke out about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday at 196 Westminster Ave.
The homeowner, Mark Jones, and another person living there were inside the home and smelled smoke, Frost said. Jones went to the basement and saw thick smoke coming from the wood burner, according to an incident report.
Jones reportedly went to get a fire extinguisher, but when he returned, the smoke was much thicker and very hot.
Frost said both people made it out of the house unscathed and called 911.
“It appears the fire started in the basement in a wood burner they had going,” he said.
Frost said firefighters extinguished the blaze in about 45 minutes but were there for nearly three hours.
“We couldn’t get inside the house at first because of the debris,” he said.
While inside the home, Frost said, fire crews found three to four kegs of black ammunition powder in the basement.
“We called the bomb squad in to handle it,” he said. “It’s a lot of powder to have, and it was popping off because of the heat.”
Frost said Jones purchased the powder from vendors and used it to make ammunition for his shotgun.
“It’s a pretty standard thing for a shooter to do,” Frost said. “We called the bomb squad in just to make sure it was handled the right way.”
Property and content damage totaled about $57,000, according to the report.
Frost said the house is close to a total loss.
“Going by the house, it doesn’t look that bad,” he said. “But there’s nothing underneath it. The floors are gone.”
The family is staying with relatives while the fire department continues its investigation.
This was the first major house fire in the township since a series of fires between Dec. 24 and Dec. 27, 2009.