CLARKSBURG — An early morning fire at the Town House West Motel has left a Louisiana man severely burned and a female unaccounted for, authorities said Sunday.
Dustin McCellen, 21 of Louisiana and believed to be an oil/gas worker, was identified as the victim by witnesses and other sources. He was flown to the West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh. Hospital officials said they could not comment on his condition. A release from the State Fire Marshal's office said the victim was burned on 80 percent of his body.
The quick response of two Harrison County deputy sheriffs and three bystanders potentially saved dozens of residents of the extended stay motel located off the Wilsonburg exit of U.S. 50.
The fire was reported by Harrison County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Deem at 4:53 a.m. He had been on routine patrol headed east on U.S. 50.
“When I went past I didn’t notice anything,” Deem said. “But when I turned around at the barrier, I could see flames shooting out of the top.”
After alerting 911, Deem and fellow deputy Sam Morrison responded quickly, knocking on doors to alert residents.
“We couldn’t get to the top (west) tier,” Deem said. “We helped an elderly lady out of the unit below the one where the fire apparently started. And we helped some kids out.”
Deem said he and Morrison were assisted by three men. Deem and Morrison had to kick in several doors to roust residents from their sleep.
If was after they began checking rooms that the victim came out of a room, fully engulfed in flames, police said.
A female was seen earlier with the man and remains unaccounted for, Harrison County Sheriff’s Department Detective Pat McCarty said.
Earlier on Sunday, police had said there were as many as 11 residents unaccounted for, but “they slowly started calling in or stopping by,” Sheriff Albert Marano said Sunday evening.
“We’ve accounted for all of the residents,” Marano said. “There is one female unaccounted for.”
Assistant State Fire Marshal Mackey Ayersman described the female as 5-foot-3 or 5-4, with dirty blonde hair. She was seen with the man at the bar located nearby and later in the motel parking lot.
Police, state fire marshals, firefighters and state Division of Highways personnel used heavy equipment to excavate the west wing of the motel and the area behind the motel office, Ayersman said. Cadaver dogs also were used in the search, which ended about 6 p.m.
Forty-nine rooms were rented on Saturday night according to the hotel log, investigators said.
Ayersman and a team of six marshals also worked to determine a cause. He said that with the extreme amount of damage it would be difficult to pinpoint.
“We have two witnesses who described the fire starting in the western peak area near the roof line,” Ayersman said. “That would put the fire above the ceilings of any rooms.”
Reynoldsville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kenny McNemar was in charge of the firefighting effort.
He said water pressure and supply was an issue when they arrived.
Sixty to 75 firefighters were involved in the effort, McNemar said. Many remained on scene until early evening, extinguishing hot spots that rekindled. A firefighter was to remain on duty throughout the night to secure the scene, officials said.
McNemar said as many as 10 tanker units were used to truck water to the scene.
Units involved included Nutter Fort, which was first to arrive, as well as Spelter, Shinnston, Lost Creek, Stonewood, Jane Lew, Jackson’s Mill, Flemington, Grafton and McClellan from Doddridge County.
Ambulances from Harrison County and Anmoore EMS were on scene, but McNemar reported no serious health issues for firefighters or other residents. Division of Highways crews shut down the Wilsonburg exit.
The Town House West Motel opened in 1964 and was owned until February, 2011 by the Secret family. It was sold to BFS, a convenience store company, according to family spokesman Anthony Secret.
Earlier this year, the Town House East Motel located on U.S. 50 in Bridgeport sustained damage during a daytime fire.
That motel, which is still owned by the Secret family, suffered significant damage to the office area and one apartment but no one was injured. That fire was believed to have been started by a stove left on in the apartment.