Fire that destroys Berkeley Springs home believed to have started with candle

by Kate Evans

A December 8 structure fire east of Berkeley Springs.
photo by Andy Stotler

Firefighters from Morgan County and surrounding areas fought an evening blaze that destroyed a Berkeley Springs home on Tuesday, December 8.

Incident commander Lieutenant Zachary Sipe from the Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company said in a press release that winds from the west at nearly 10 miles an hour increased the fire spread. The home will probably be considered a total loss. The resident of the home was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

The fire call came in to the Morgan County 911 Dispatch Center at 7:46 p.m. Tuesday, December 8 for a residential structure fire in the 500 block of Grove Heights Road.  The road is located off Route 9 East past the Warm Springs Middle School/ Warm Springs Intermediate School complex east of Berkeley Springs.

The first units arriving on the scene reported fire showing on the rear/right corner of the house, making the fire visible on the east side of the house, said Sipe.   An off-duty paramedic on the scene indicated that the home was going to be evacuated.

The fire burned up the wall into the attic area where it ran along the roof.  Firefighters had to cut holes in the roof to help ventilate and locate the hidden fire, he said.

An attack line to knock down the fire began on right side of the house.  Once additional fire personnel came from Hancock and Great Cacapon they mounted a second attack line into the interior of the home, encountering walls of clutter that officials believe were tied to hoarding, Sipe said.

A third line of attack occurred midway into the incident. Great Cacapon Tanker 2 operated as a nurse tanker during the fire. The fire was considered knocked down at 8:12 p.m.

The sole resident of the home was evaluated by Morgan County Emergency Medical Services at the fire scene and refused ambulance transport to the hospital.  The person was taken by private vehicle to the hospital.  The family indicated later that the resident was transferred to Washington Hospital Center in Washington D.C. as a precaution due to the extent of the injuries sustained, Sipe said.

The American Red Cross wasn’t called as the family took the resident to the hospital before Sipe was able to talk with them.

Due to the civilian injuries, the fire was referred to the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office for further investigation, he said. There were no reported firefighter injuries.  One cat died in the fire.

At the time of the Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company press release, the cause of the fire was believed to be a candle that ignited a wreath, Sipe said.

Fire and rescue units that responded to the blaze Berkeley Springs, Great Cacapon, South Morgan, Hancock, Orleans,  Needmore and Clear Spring Volunteer Fire Companies, Morgan County Emergency Medical Services, Washington County Air Unit 251 and Rehab Unit 255 and the Morgan County Deputy Reserves.

Hedgesville Rescue Engine 31 transferred to the Berkeley Springs fire station during the fire operations. Units were on the scene until 10:45 p.m.