by Kate Shunney
A two-story apartment building along U.S. 522 in downtown Berkeley Springs was gutted by an early afternoon fire on Friday, November 15. Fire operations shut down the main road through the downtown area for several hours as fire units from around the region extinguished the blaze.
Fire was reported at 222 N. Washington Street at 12:44 p.m. Occupants of the apartment building had vacated the building by the time fire operations began. A resident of the building reported the fire to 911.
Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company Chief Jared Waugh said one of the four apartments in the building was vacant, but the rest had tenants. Responders said one of the apartments was occupied by a single male and another may have been home to a family with a small child.
Firefighters said it appears a grease fire in the kitchen of the south rear corner apartment was an intial cause of the structure fire, which spread to the front of the building. Upstairs apartments sustained smoke and water damage.
Chief Waugh said the older home is a balloon-frame structure, which can allow fire to move more rapidly into upper floors.
Flames blazed from windows on the south side of the building as firefighters arrived on scene, established lines and brought ladders to the sides and rear of the house.
Despite an initial lack of manpower on the scene, firefighters got the blaze under control quickly and kept it from endangering nearby buildings.
Initially, Great Cacapon firefighters pulled water lines across U.S. 522 from a hydrant at the intersection with Cacapon Road (Route 9 west) as additional fire units arrived at the scene.
Fire hoses across U.S. 522 made it necessary for police to shut down the roadway. Traffic was rerouted and backed up for two hours.
Morgan County EMS, West Virginia State Police and the West Virginia Division of Highways assisted with traffic control at the fire scene.
Kevin Duckwall of Morgan County EMS assumed command of the scene from Berkeley Springs firefighters, said fire officials.
Fire operations ended at 3:07 p.m., according to Morgan County 911 dispatchers. Command at the scene was terminated at 3:14 p.m.
Red Cross volunteers were called to the fire incident to assist families displaced by the blaze. The identity of those affected by the fire was not immediately available.
Fire units operating on the scene included companies from Great Cacapon, Hancock, Berkeley Springs, South Morgan, Gainesboro and Clear Spring.