2017-02-15 / Front Page

Fire destroys home in southern end of county

by Kate Evans

Area firefighters battled a February 8 fire that destroyed a home and displaced a family in southern Morgan County.

The parents of the homeowner were home when the fire broke out but the couple was able to get out of the house safely with their dogs and without injury, said South Morgan Volunteer Fire Company Captain Mel Harmon, who is also the fire company’s president.

The fire call came to the Morgan County 911 Dispatch Center around 3 p.m. last Wednesday for 378 Spring Drive, which is off Ruppenthal Road off Highland Ridge Road. The parents heard the smoke detectors go off and saw the fire and called family members for help, Harmon said.

The house fire could be seen from far away and the home was completely engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived on the scene.

Firefighters from Berkeley Springs were first to arrive and South Morgan firefighters got there at almost the same time, he said. Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company Captain Chris Sipe was in command of the fire scene.

The home’s roof was partially collapsed and completely collapsed within a few minutes after their arrival. Electricity was arcing at the meter box so firefighters had to stay away from that corner of the house, Harmon said. The power company was delayed in getting there to turn off the power to the home.

Fire spreads

The fire also spread a little distance into the woods but they were able to control it so it didn’t spread further, Harmon said. The fire burned around 3/4 of an acre of lawn and started into a ravine, but firefighters stopped it.

Based on information from the parents, firefighters believed the fire started in the furnace room in the basement of the house, Harmon said. Sipe said the cause of the fire is undetermined.

The home is a total loss. The residents have other family members in the area that they can stay with so the American Red Cross was not called for assistance.

Responding units

Units from Berkeley Springs, South Morgan, Great Cacapon, Reynolds Store, Gainesboro, Hancock, Clear Spring, Back Creek Valley, Hedgesville and Orleans Volunteer Fire Companies responded to the blaze along with Morgan County Emergency Medical Services, Washington County Air Unit 25 and Washington County Rehab Unit 255.

Units from Paw Paw Volunteer Fire Company transferred to the South Morgan Fire Hall for standby. Units were on the fire scene until around 8 p.m., Harmon said. There were no injuries to firefighters.

Working together

Harmon said that everyone got there and supported what Captain Sipe wanted and got it done. The nice thing is that firefighters from three states and different counties work together and that no one gets hurt.

“It’s a tribute to those guys that everyone gets to go home,” Harmon said.

Fire rekindled

Firefighters returned to the site later that night when the fire rekindled between 10 and 11 p.m. Units from South Morgan, Berkeley Springs, Hancock and Reynolds Store Volunteer Fire Companies responded and were on the scene until around midnight.

Harmon said they were very fortunate because it started raining as they were packing up from the rekindle, which really helped. Sometimes fires will rekindle several times over several days, he said.

Harmon noted that as of Monday night that South Morgan firefighters had four emergency calls in the past 24 hours with trees and power lines being down from the high winds that were close to structures and that Berkeley Springs firefighters had several calls, too.

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