WHEELING, W.Va. — The three-alarm fire that brought significant damage to a longtime Wheeling company is believed to have started accidentally.

The Bureau of Fire Investigations for the Wheeling Fire Department (WFD) has made a preliminary determination that the Thursday blaze at the Ziegenfelder Frozen Treat Company plant was accidental.

“It appears that there was a heating mechanism that was used to unthaw a pipe,” WFD spokesperson Philip Stahl said on Friday. “We believe that is what sparked the fire and ignited it to the magnitude that it went to yesterday (Thursday).”

Wheeling Fire L-12

Stahl said the frigid conditions made efforts challenging.

Nobody was hurt in the fire that multiple crews fought for hours but there was a lot of property damage. Stahl said the company was on the scene Friday assessing the damage and trying to get some of the utilities running.

Fire crews from Cumberland Trail and Martins Ferry (Ohio) joined the WFD on the scene at the 18th street facility in downtown Wheeling. The fire was called in shortly before 11 Thursday morning and crews were able to control it around 3:30 that afternoon. Frigid temperatures, the wind and the size of the blaze were a couple of factors that made this fire challenging, according to Stahl.

“I don’t think we have seen something like this, especially when we talk about the cold weather conditions that we had,” Stahl said. “We’ve had large fires in recent memory but nothing to frigid temperatures that we saw yesterday.

“The firefighters did their job to the best of their ability. They got the job done. Everybody should feel proud to live in a city where such a professional environment exists with the fire, police departments, emergency management agency with everybody coming and working together.”

Stahl said the complete investigation is ongoing as the WFD is continuing to keep its eye on tanks outside of the building that hold ammonia and other chemicals.

The multi-million-dollar Ziegenfelder Frozen Treat Company is a staple in Wheeling and is famous for its twin pop popsicles sold at grocery chains across the United States. According to the company’s website, it started in 1861.

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