Fire marshal offering reward for information about Berkeley Springs house fire

Fire destroyed this vacant house on Truax Drive in Berkeley Springs during the early morning hours of Wednesday, June 12. Photo courtesy of the Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company

by Kate Evans

An early morning house fire in Berkeley Springs on Wednesday, June 12 is being investigated by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office as a suspicious fire.

Fire officials said Monday they are looking at the fire as being incendiary in nature, meaning they believe the fire was set.

Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company responded to a report of a residential structure fire on Truax Drive off Pious Ridge Road that came into Morgan County 911 Dispatch around 1:15 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company Lieutenant Zachary Sipe was the first to arrive on the scene at 1:24 a.m. He found a one story, wood frame single family dwelling well involved, with a vehicle and some children’s toys in the driveway, according to the fire company’s press release.

Sipe requested the working fire assignment of two additional engines, two additional tankers, a rescue squad and a medic unit with Engine 12’s initial assignment to come back the lane and not lay in so they could prepare for a possible search. Just before their arrival a neighbor told Sipe that the house was recently vacant and no one was inside, which changed engine 12’s assignment to the primary attack pumper.

Sipe confirmed heavy fire conditions on all four sides of the house and ordered a strictly defensive attack. He also had noticed an odor of accelerants near the home and requested the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office, according to the press release.

Three attack lines were formed for fire suppression by the responding fire companies. Tankers staged at Truax Drive and Pious Ridge Road and shuttled water back the driveway one tanker at a time. Potomac Edison got there two hours into the incident and pulled the meter, cutting power to the residence.

Firefighters brought the fire under control in 56 minutes. Crews remained on the scene for three and a half hours initially. No civilian or responder injuries were reported. The last unit cleared the scene at 4:45 a.m.

“The home is a total loss and the fire is being deemed suspicious in nature and is under investigation by the WV State Fire Marshal’s Office (WVSFMO),” the press release said.

Around 10:22 a.m. on Wednesday, Engine 12 went back to the fire scene for a rekindle. Firefighters found two hot spots and extinguished them. Engine 12 was on the scene Wednesday evening assisting the State Fire Marshal’s Office with their operations.

West Virginia Assistant State Fire Marshal Joseph Vacchio said there may be multiple points of origin in the fire. Some evidence was removed from the fire scene and they’re waiting for confirmation of the analysis of that evidence from the state lab now.

Units that responded to the initial fire call were Berkeley Springs, Great Cacapon, Hancock, Little Orleans, South Morgan, Clear Spring, Hedgesville and Reynolds Store Volunteer Fire Companies, Maugansville Volunteer Fire Company Rescue Squad, Morgan County Emergency Medical Services, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department, Washington County Air Unit 252 and Rehab 255 and Potomac Edison. Gainesboro Volunteer Fire Company transferred to the Berkeley Springs fire station for coverage.

Anyone with any information about the fire should call 1-800-233-3473 or 1-800-233-FIRE.   There is up to a $5,000 reward.