Fire destroys much of Avalon Resort lodge, Fire Marshal says blaze started in attic

by Kate Evans

An afternoon fire on New Year’s Eve destroyed a large portion of the lodge at Avalon Resort in the Hampshire County portion of Paw Paw.

The fire call came in to Hampshire County 911 Dispatch Center at 3:41 p.m. on Tuesday, December 31 for a fire on the roof of Avalon’s lodge, said a Hampshire County dispatcher. The clothing-optional resort is located at 223 Avalon Road outside of Paw Paw.

Slanesville Volunteer Fire Company Deputy Chief Brent Swisher was in command of the fire scene. Swisher said that when he and the first units arrived shortly after the call, the dining hall and kitchen roof had started to collapse and the wind was pushing the fire along the roof line to other sections of the building.

Swisher said that the Avalon lodge was a very large building-almost 300 feet by 75 feet-and contained a dining hall, a kitchen, 18 rooms, an attached bar and casino and an indoor pool.

Swisher said that the lodge was not a total loss. Firefighters were able to save the bar, the casino and the pool complex. However, the dining hall, kitchen and the 18 rooms are a total loss.

The lodge is the only Avalon structure that was involved in the blaze. There were no other structures or woods endangered by the fire, he said.

There were no injuries to guests or firefighters. Swisher said that some Avalon staff got checked out for smoke inhalation.

Swisher said that most of the rooms in Avalon’s lodge were rented and noted that New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest days for the resort. Guests were evacuated before firefighters arrived and Swisher didn’t know how many people were there when the fire broke out.

Fire and rescue units that responded to the fire were Slanesville, Augusta, Paw Paw, Berkeley Springs, Great Cacapon, Capon Bridge, Levels, Springfield, Oldtown, Ridgeley, Gainesboro, Reynolds Store and Fort Ashby Volunteer Fire Companies along with Hampshire County, Allegany County and Augusta Emergency Medical Services.

Command advised that the fire was extinguished at 7:16 p.m., said the dispatcher. The fire was under control in two hours and units were on the scene for another two to three hours for overhaul, Swisher said. The last fire truck left around 8:32 p.m.

Two rekindles of the fire occurred on Friday to which Slanesville and Paw Paw Volunteer Fire Companies responded, along with additional fire companies that responded to the second rekindle.

The fire is believed to have been electrical in nature and to have started in the kitchen, but the cause is still under investigation and to be determined, Swisher said.

Assistant State Fire Marshal George Harms investigated the fire scene at Avalon on Friday. Harms said in an e-mail that after his fire scene examination and witness interviews he determined that the fire started in the attic over the dining room.

Harms noted that it’s most likely an electrical fire since that would be the most competent ignition source in the attic. The investigation is ongoing to try to pinpoint the actual wiring that caused the fire. Harms said at present the official cause of the fire is undetermined.

Avalon’s website notes that their lodge and indoor aquatic center will be temporarily closed until further notice due to the fire. They also posted their hopes for reopening.

Swisher said that with cleanup from the fire and rebuilding that it will be some time before the Avalon lodge can reopen