UPDATE 7/5/13 @ 7:17 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) --Neighbors along Oakridge Drive in Charleston blame severe weather for an early-morning fire.
Charlie and Betty Stiltner, the owners of the burned home, tell WSAZ.com their home had been without power since Thursday evening. They say when their son tried to refuel a generator, the back porch caught on fire.
The Stiltners had lived in the home for more than 50 years.
“I ran out in front of my house and by the time I got out, over half of their house was on fire,” neighbor Victoria Gentry said.
Neighbors said within minutes, the entire home went up in flames.
It happened about 6 a.m. Friday at 2262 Oakridge Drive.
The owners of the home at tell WSAZ.com they managed to escape the house with only a purse and an oxygen tank for Charlie.
“Thankfully they got in time because it went up so fast,” Gentry said.
C.W. Sigman with Kanawha County Emergency Management tells WSAZ.com during strong storms like Thursday’s, people often turn to generators, sometimes not realizing how dangerous the machines can be.
“Most incidents are avoidable,” Sigman said. “Sometimes it just sneaks up on us a little bit but if you're going to refuel [the generator] you need to shut it off.”
Sigman also advised that people using generators keep them far away from the home and be sure to completely let generators cool down before attempting to refuel.
Another problem area is how full to refill a generator. Sigman warned generators shouldn’t be filled to the brim, and that if any fuel does spill over it should be cleaned immediately or allowed to evaporate before the machine is started.
The family tells WSAZ.com they’ve already been contacted by the Red Cross for living assistance but said they will likely stay with a son.
That same son, a contractor, said he intends to rebuild his parents’ home along Oakridge Drive.
The fire broke out just after 6 a.m. at 2262 Oakridge Drive.
Firefighters tell us the homeowner was pouring fuel into his generator on the back porch when it caught fire. When the man tried to drag it off the porch the fire quickly spread to the home.
The house was destroyed.
Three people were inside the house when the fire started, but they all made it out safely.