An early Sunday morning house fire in the Steelton section of New Martinsville has claimed the life of 74-year-old Earl "Gene" Malson and the family dog, Abbey.
Malson's wife, Ruth "Frances", was able to escape the blaze at 62 Orchard Drive and was transported to Wetzel County Hospital where she was admitted for treatment of smoke inhalation.
The first report of the fire came in to the Wetzel County 911 center at 4:20 a.m. Officers from the New Martinsville Police Department arrived on scene three minutes later and encountered Ruth Malson exiting the front door of the home. She told officers that her husband and the family dog were still in the home. "Officers attempted to enter the home and rescue Mr. Malson, but were pushed back by the intense smoke and heat," said New Martinsville Fire Chief Larry Couch. Fire department personnel arrived on the scene at 4:27 a.m., quickly searched the home, and found Earl Malson in the basement. Unfortunately he had already been overcome by the fire and attempts to revive him outside of the structure were unsuccessful.
Wetzel County Medical Examiner Carla McBee said following an autopsy it is now official that Earl Malson died of smoke and soot inhalation. Funeral arrangements are pending at Grisell Funeral Home.
While the couple were the only people in the home at the time of the incident, their family dog was also lost in the fire. She was transported to Paden Memorial Pet Cemetery by the City of New Martinsville's Animal Control Officer, pending further arrangements by the family.
After retrieving Earl Malson, fire crews returned to the interior of the home and completed the extinguishment of the fire, which was declared under control at 5:18 a.m.
Crews remained on the scene until 8:30 a.m. after an investigation by the West Virginia Fire Marshal's Office was conducted, with analyses still to be completed. According to Couch, the initial investigation determined that the fire appeared to have started in the basement in what the family referred to as the "play room". "The fire has been determined to have been accidental and appears most likely to have been from a failed electrical extension cord along the south wall of the basement," said Couch.
While an official estimation of damage has yet to be given, McBee said the fire was contained to the basement portion of the home.
The NMVFD was assisted at the scene by the New Martinsville Police Department, Wetzel County EMS, Paden City Volunteer Fire Company, Sistersville EMS, New Martinsville Animal Control, Mon Power Company, New Martinsville Water Department, Mountaineer Gas Company, and the West Virginia Fire Marshal's Office.