West side house fire

A vacant Marietta home set ablaze twice in the past five years burned for the third – and Marietta firefighters hope final – time Friday night into the early morning Saturday.

Two neighbors called around 11 p.m. about the blaze at 1001 Gilman Ave. and flames were already roaring from the attic of the home when firefighters arrived.

The house has been vacant for “a significant amount of time,” said Marietta Fire Chief C. W. Durham.

There was no electricity or gas running to the home, noted Captain Jack Hansis of the fire department.

“There was no reason for it to start,” he said. The fire was concentrated on the front portion of the house which faces Gilman Avenue.

Hansis said the fire was “well-involved” by the time his crew arrived and he issued an “all call” – all available city fire personnel respond. Hansis said the department also had to divert a traffic accident and medical emergency call within the city to nearby volunteer departments while the city firefighters worked to control the blaze.

While responders had the blaze contained within 20 minutes, the crew spent hours fighting hot spots and ensuring the home would not reignite.

The cause of the fire will be under investigation, said Durham, and the State Fire Marshal’s office will be called in.

However, neighbor Robin Coughlin said she suspects the home was again the victim of arson.

“I know that homeless people have been living there,” said Coughlin, whose home is approximately 30 yards away.

The first fire at the home in June 2009 was investigated as arson. A sofa and pile of debris on the porch was the suspected source.

A second fire at the home in May 2010 was definitively ruled as arson.

The homeowner’s name was not immediately available, however, Coughlin said she believed the children of the former owner, Frank Stephens, inherited the home.

Stephens was the victim of a suspected murder on Groves Avenue in April. The 1001 Gilman Ave. home was listed as his address at his time of death.

Coughlin said she did not believe Stephens had been living there at the time.

The inside of the home was relatively empty, with very little furniture or material inside.

The fire posed several potential problems including that there was no easy access to the home, which when inhabited was accessed by taking a set of steps from Gilman Avenue and crossing the CSX train tracks. Pumpers had to park approximately 100 yards away right next to the railroad tracks, and CSX was asked to temporarily close the tracks while crews worked.

The house is also surrounded by brush and close to power lines, which appeared to have avoided damage.

Hansis predicted the house is a total loss.