WHEELING, W.Va. — As many as four houses could be declared a total loss in connection with a rapidly spreading fire along Virginia Street on Wheeling Island early Monday morning, authorities said.

The blaze began at shortly after midnight at 61 Virginia Street, according to Wheeling Fire Department Public Information Officer Philip Stahl.

“The homeowner called in. The smoke detector awoke him. He was able to escape. His house was on fire,” Stahl said. “The back part of the house was fully involved and because of the magnitude of the flames they spread to the next door duplex.”

From the residence at 63 Virginia Street the flames continued west to houses at 65, 67 and 69 Virginia. There’s not much room between the houses, according to Stahl.

“A lot of these homes were built like that. Obviously in a neighborhood like that they are very old homes. There’s a lot of old wood in those homes,” he said.

The Wheeling Fire Department sounded a second alarm for the blaze. Nearly 40 firefighters were on the scene but there were a number of obstacles, Stahl said.

“We were fighting multiple flames from different areas. There were power lines that we had to be aware of when it comes to our ladder truck,” he said. “We were fighting the fire from the front and back. Obviously it was spreading and there were different angles we were fighting.”

The blaze was brought under control at around 3 a.m.

Three of the houses are a total loss and it’s possible a fourth could also be declared destroyed. A fifth house had fire damage to the roof, according to Stahl.

Only two of the houses were occupied. There were no injuries. A dog did died in the blaze. The American Red Cross is helping the fire victims.

There was no early word on what started the fire.

“Right now we’re not quite sure. It could take a day or so to figure out what we have here,” Stahl said.

It’s the largest fire in Wheeling in more than five years.

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