By SEAN I. MILLS Sentinel staff writer

ORANGE NIGHT ¿ Bright orange flames and thick smoke rise into the early morning sky as firefighters douse what little remains of a residence on Wheeler Hill Road in McConnellsville. (Photo for the Sentinel by Ted Chase Sr.)

HOLD THE LINE ¿ Volunteer firefighters blast a hose-line into the flaming debris of a residence on Wheeler Hill Road in the Town of Annsville this morning. (Photo for the Sentinel by Ted Chase Sr.)

ANNSVILLE — The home of an assistant volunteer fire chief was destroyed by flames early this morning, leaving Robert D. Sankey and his wife homeless.

The Sankeys were out of town at the time of the 1 a.m. blaze, officials said, and they were not injured. The Red Cross is assisting.

The fire at 3075 Wheeler Hill Road was discovered by a neighbor at about 1 a.m. today after he was woken by his barking dogs, fire officials said. The one-story residence was fully involved by the time firefighters arrived.

Sankey is an assistant fire chief with the McConnellsville Fire Department. McConnellsville was one of three agencies that responded to the blaze, and the Sankeys were notified of the fire and returned home during the firefight.

Wheeler Hill Road runs east from Mill Pond Way and bends northward to Mill Road, just north of the Village of McConnellsville.

Authorities said the fire took about 30 to 45 minutes to knock down. Firefighters launched an all-exterior attack, surrounding and drowning the blaze. The residence was a total loss, and had been burning for some time before it was discovered.

The cause remains under investigation, officials said. Investigators were on the scene this morning.

The McConnellsville, Taberg and Vienna fire departments responded.