Berkeley Club building gutted by Monday fire

The former Berkeley Club bottling plant was destroyed by fire on Monday, March 5. The two-story block building has been occupied by a custom motorcycle business and several people were inside the building when the fire started shortly after 5 p.m. All occupants were able to get out of the building before fire crews arrived on the scene.

Morgan County 911 received a fire call at 5:15 p.m. reporting that a kerosene heater inside the garage warehouse was on fire.

Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company was the first to arrive on scene as heavy black smoke billowed out the garage doors at the front of the warehouse. Captain Chris Sipe of Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company was in command of the fire scene.

The area around the building quickly filled with heavy, colored smoke and flames were visible on the north side of the building just minutes after fire crews started attacking the blaze.

Occupants of the Berkeley Club building and bystanders rushed to alert people inside a neighboring home to get out of the building at the corner of Whisner Avenue and U.S. 522. The Berkeley Club building extends behind that home, though fire didn’t reach the house.

The recently-closed Earthdog Café, separated from the Berkeley Club building by a single-lane alley, was not damaged in the fire.

According to Deputy 911 Director Sarah Hogbin, fire crews from Berkeley Springs, Great Cacapon, Hancock, South Morgan, Orleans, Hedgesville, Gainesboro, Va. and Mineral County were dispatched for the initial fire call. On a second alarm, fire crews from Reynolds Store, Va.; Fulton County, Pa.; Clear Spring, Md. and several units from Washington County, Md. were called to the scene.

Ladder units were used to tackle the blaze from above after early attempts to knock down the fire from the ground floor were unsuccessful. The fire escalated so quickly that fire crews were evacuated from the building shortly after 5:30 p.m.

Fire crews cleared the scene just before 10 p.m., letting units from around the region return to service. Extensive mop-up was required around the Berkeley Club building, and crews worked until after 11 p.m. there.

Deputy 911 Director Sarah Hogbin said one firefighter was transported from the scene for medical care.

U.S. 522 was shut down from 5:15 p.m. until 10 p.m. in the area of the fire as firefighters remained on the scene. Traffic along U.S. 522 was redirected to various secondary routes around Morgan County, causing vehicle backups along Waugh Road, New Hope and Johnsons Mill Road.

Hazardous materials crews from Washington County responded to the fire scene to clean up fuel spilled from the garage.

On Tuesday morning, a sheen smelling of diesel fuel was visible on Warm Springs Run behind the Morgan County Courthouse. Responders said the fuel had likely washed down the run from tanks that had ruptured at the fire scene.

A small rekindle of the fire was reported on Tuesday morning.

Assistant State Fire Marshal George Harms confirmed Tuesday he will investigate the cause of the fire, and expected to begin his investigation immediately.

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