NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – A historical house once owned by the “Hot Dog King” Harry Stevens has burned to the ground after crews were called to the area following reports of an explosion.
The house at 1210 Robbins Avenue is completely destroyed after a fire started around 3 p.m. Thursday.
“There were reports of a loud explosion. Obviously, with glass around the house, it looks that way,” said Niles Fire Chief John Stevens. “Upon arrival, it had fire showing from the whole structure. So it was fully involved, partial collapse already.”
“I was sitting in the living room. I heard a big bang. When I looked out, the house was blown off its foundation. The sides were blown out,” said witness Marlene Deneen.
Deneen lives across from the house and witnessed the destruction.
Neighbors said the boom was intense and the explosion so powerful, it shook houses blocks away.
“Like a boom, like a truck hit a building, and then I looked at the house and the house was cracked, like, in half,” said witness Debbie Whetstone.
Deneen says after the boom, neighbors rushed over to see if anyone was home and needed help.
“I heard a man yelling, ‘Is anyone in there? Is anyone in there?’ And all of a sudden it started going up in flames,” Deneen said.
No one was home at the time of the explosion.
On the scene, shards of glass could be seen scattered all over the ground and street — some several inches in size blew 100 feet away.
Chief Stevens said the shattered glass and how far it traveled points to this being an explosion, but the cause remains under investigation.
“Standard procedure is to call out Dominion because of the gas possibility of exploding. Also, the state fire marshal is here investigating,” Chief Stevens said.
The state fire marshal is now the lead on investigating this fire.
Chief Stevens said he does not suspect any foul play.
“Thankfully, no one was home. Houses can be replaced, but this house means a lot to Niles’ history, and it’s just like, I’m heartbroken over the loss of this house,” Whetstone said.
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The house was originally built by George Robbins and his wife. Harry Stevens bought the house in 1911 and his only daughter, Annie Stevens Rose, lived in it for many years, according to the Niles Historical Society’s website.
The house was just sold in November for $83,500, according to the Trumbull County Auditor’s website. Neighbors said the owners had been renovating the house prior to the explosion.