Around 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 30, the second story of a large white house on East Main Street in Floyd unexpectedly caught fire, and within minutes the towering flames and billows of smoke could be seen from several blocks away. Both Floyd County Volunteer Fire Department Stations 1 and 3 responded to the fire after it was called in by passerby, according to Emergency Management Coordinator Kevin Sowers.
The house at 421 E. Main St, previously owned by the late Laurence Hale Wood, who operated a funeral home in Floyd prior to his death in 2016, was willed to his daughter Anne after his death. According to the property assessment from last year, Anne Wood currently resides in New York City. The house is abandoned and no injuries have been reported. As recently as 2015, however, the house had been rented out as apartments.
A local resident who acts as caretaker for the property said improvements have been made recently to the house. “Anne did have a new roof put (on) the house back in the summer, and had a local construction company ready to remodel the house soon,” the caretaker, who preferred not to be named, said.
The caretaker added that they were asleep when the fire began, due to working a night shift. “I have a good friend that is in with the rescue squad/fire department and he called me … I called Anne as soon as I found out.” As of press time, Wood could not be reached for comment.
The Floyd County Sheriff’s Office called the blaze “suspicious” and has solicited information from the public, encouraging those with tips to call an anonymous phone line at (540) 745-9395. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation. Asked for comment last Thursday, Floyd County Sheriff Brian Craig said he had “nothing to release yet” in regard to the investigation. As of Tuesday, Jan. 7, no search warrants had been returned to the county circuit court.
At the Jan. 2 Town Council meeting, Vice-Chair Mike Patton detailed traffic congestion and confusion about detours off Main Street during the fire. According to Town Manager Kayla Cox, “The State Police and firemen were on scene, however, with the sidewalk construction having East Oxford closed and the fire having East Main closed, there was mass confusion on where and how to route traffic.” Cox said Kelly Reid, who is the project manager of the construction crew working on the sidewalks, temporarily stepped in to help with routing traffic.
Cox said at the Council meeting that, “There’s a responsibility now that falls on the landowner (Ms. Wood) … They have two years from the date of the incident, unless the structure is an endangerment (to the public.)” Mayor Will Griffin clarified that Wood has two years to “remedy” the situation—ostensibly either to repair or tear down the burned structure.