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Fatal fire in city called ‘suspicious’

July 26, 2011
By DAVE GOSSETT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - A fatal Monday morning fire that left a 60-year-old woman dead has been termed suspicious by fire department and law enforcement officials.

Fire Chief Terri English called the fire that apparently killed Donna Feustel, "suspicious because of the nature of the fire."

"When the firefighters arrived at the two-story apartment building at 324 S. Commercial St. they found the front porch fully engulfed in flames and the fire grew quickly throughout the first floor area," English said.

The victim was apparently outside of the building, "but went back inside the apartment because she believed her brother was still inside," according to city police reports.

"The responding firefighters heard someone yelling for help when the arrived on the scene. They immediately put a ladder up to a second floor window and pulled a window air conditioner unit and part of the window out of the frame. Two firefighters entered the second floor room while other firefighters started battling the blaze. But the flames and smoke were so intense they were unable to locate anyone in the building and had to leave back out of the window," English explained Monday afternoon.

"The fire is under investigation by our fire inspector, the state fire marshal, the city police and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation," said English.

Debbie Welch of the Jefferson County Coroner's Office said Feustel's body had been taken to Cuyahoga County Monday, where an autopsy will be conducted.

According to a statement issued Monday by Shane Cartmill, a public information officer with the Division of State Fire Marshal, "Investigators have additional interviews to conduct and awaiting the coroner's preliminary report.The home was not equipped with smoke alarms."

Welch said a preliminary coroner's report is expected this afternoon.

"In addition to the heavy smoke and flames, the firefighters were dealing with burned power lines that were sparking and causing problems. So the firefighters at the scene called for assistance from American Electric Power and Columbia Gas," said English.

"We had to call eight off-duty firefighters to the scene as well as members of the Weirton Fire Department because of the excessive heat and humidity. And the Mingo Junction fire department manned our West End fire station," said Chris Blackburn, who served as acting assistant fire chief Monday.

"We battled the fire for approximately one hour and then had to deal with several hot spots in the apartment. The building has several small rooms, which made fighting the fire hard," added Blackburn.

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