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Power surge suspected cause of fire that affects two rental properties

Apartment resident had lost his job, seen his car break down in past week

By Katie Wilson - Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT - A fire affected two rental properties on Walnut Avenue Friday afternoon. Fairmont Fire Chief Gregg Freme said the fire began at 608 1/2 Walnut Ave., a small garage apartment behind the main residence at 608 Walnut. The fire also caused smoke in the basement of the main property. Freme said the fire was most likely caused by a power surge through the lines into the garage apartment.

Jett Bailes, 22, who lives in the apartment, said a snapping, popping and humming noise coming from outside woke him up.

"It sounded like a machine gun," he said.

Bailes thought the noise came from a utility pole across the alleyway behind his apartment. When he looked outside, he saw sparks coming from the pole. The lines leading from the pole to the surrounding houses were completely covered with vegetation from neighboring trees.

Then Bailes' furnace kicked on. Within minutes, smoke had spread throughout the apartment.

Firemen quickly extinguished the blaze and took care of the heavy smoke coming from the basement of the main residence.

Bailes said the fire is just another event in a recent string of bad luck. In the last week, his car has broken down and he lost his job. He said he will be moving to Summersville to live with his father.

The garage apartment and the residence in front of it are owned by Jared Prickett, who lives in Kentucky. His father manages the properties for him.

Allegheny Power was called to the scene. Freme said the utility company will be conducting an investigation Monday to determine whether the cause of the incident came from the pole or from inside the residence.

As of early Friday evening, the lines to the actual pole had been changed and power had been restored to surrounding houses. Power will not be restored to those homes affected by the fire until all investigations are completed.

The Fairmont Fire Department and Fairmont City Police responded to the incident.