OLEAN — A structure fire Wednesday morning destroyed a vacant home located off Route 16 in the town of Olean.
At about 9:25 a.m., firefighters from several local departments were called to 728 Barnum Road, where they found all three stories of the home in flames.
“It was lit up from top to bottom when we arrived,” said Town of Olean Fire Department Chief Scott Zink. “It is definitely a total loss.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, although Zink said electrical wiring may have been a factor. There were no injuries.
Dusty Unverdorben, of Portville, owns both the vacant house and the Halfway Inn bar next door. He stood at the top of a small cliff looking down at the charred remains of the property as firefighters sprayed it down with water.
“I can’t believe it,” he said. “I can’t believe how quick that went.”
He was working Wednesday morning in Alfred when he got a call from a tenant living above the Halfway Inn that the house next door was on fire.
“It wasn’t long and everyone was calling me,” he said.
Unverdorben purchased both properties in March. He originally rented the house to a tenant but had to remove him due to the poor condition of the house, which has sat vacant for the last three months undergoing renovations.
“It was not in very good shape at all,” he said, “that’s why I had to get him out. It was shot.”
From what he had gathered at an early stage of the investigation, Zink said it’s possible electrical wiring was the cause of the blaze.
“Power and electricity were still on, gas was still on,” he said. “(Unverdorben) was in the process of taking apart the structure and shutting down the electric. That’s kind of what we’re leaning toward — possibly an electrical issue — but not 100 percent until we’re actually in there and see what’s going on.”
The previous tenant removed all furniture and property so the home was virtually empty, Unverdorben said. He was unsure of a damage estimate.
Unverdorben said the Halfway Inn, which did not suffer any damage, would remain open Wednesday. One of his bartenders was on her way to open the bar Wednesday morning when she got stuck in traffic because emergency responders shut down the road.
“She just texted me, ‘How do I get up there?’” Unverdorben said. “Actually, I wanted her to come up and feed all these (firefighters) if they want something to eat. (I) appreciate their efforts.”
Unverdorben was thankful no firefighters were injured putting out the blaze and that no one was currently living in the property.
Zink was also glad to learn the home was vacant.
“It’s best-case scenario when it’s empty and no one is in it,” he said.
Firefighters also responded from the city of Olean; Westons Mills; Hinsdale; Knapp Creek; Allegany; Portville; Otto Township, Pa.; and Eldred, Pa.
(Contact reporter Tom Dinki at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)