Cause of the fire on U.S. 80 remained undetermined Sunday night, said Steelman. He said he would begin investigating it Tuesday (Feb. 26) since he was to be out of town until then.
Although parts of the brick home, which occupied possibly 4,000 square feet, remained standing, the structure was a “total loss” and no contents were saved, Steelman said.
Nobody was home when the blaze was reported at 9:02 a.m., the fire marshal said.
The Gladewater Fire Department, first to arrive, was later joined by Big Sandy, Clarksville City, Pritchett and West Mountain firefighters, he said.
The structure was a “big house that required a lot of water,” Steelman said. He said he did not know where in the house the fire originated.
One neighbor, who said he reported the fire, said he saw smoke coming from a vent on the roof and called 911 at about 9 a.m.
According to friends of Gentry’s, he did not learn of the fire until about 7 p.m. He and his family were on a camping trip, and he did not check voice mail until then.
Gentry is the former co-owner, with his ex-wife Anita, of Annie’s Attic, which was a major Big Sandy mail-order firm. He also later founded the Needlecraft Shop, another mail-order firm, in Big Sandy. Both were purchased at different times by another publisher, and operations were relocated to Indiana.
The parent firm of the two needlecraft houses is the same one which owns Strategic Fulfillment Group (SFG) at Big Sandy, one of Upshur County’s largest employers.