Area firefighters battle house fire for hours last Wednesday, evacuate twice during response

by Kate Evans

Units from Morgan County along with units from Berkeley, Hampshire, Washington, Frederick, Mineral, Fulton and Allegany Counties battled a house fire in southern Morgan County for nearly seven hours last Wednesday.

Firefighters were evacuated from the burning home twice for safety.

Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company Deputy Fire Chief Chris Sipe, the officer in charge, said that deteriorating conditions on the inside made it unsafe. Manpower was an also issue during the fire.

Sarah Hogbin from the Morgan County 911 Dispatch Center said that the fire call for the Spook Hollow Court house fire   came in at 7:13 a.m. on Wednesday, August 18 from a resident of the home.

The first units on the scene reported a working structure fire and heavy smoke coming out of the front of the single-family home, Hogbin said. The fire didn’t spread from the home and endanger other structures or the woods.  No one was injured in the fire.

A press release from the Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company said that Morgan County Medic 7-6 was the first to arrive on the fire scene. The medic reported a single-story home with a walk-out basement with smoke showing from all sides with a possible basement fire. Deputy Chief Sipe confirmed those findings on his arrival and took command, requesting additional fire engines and the tanker task force.

Fighting the fire

Firefighters made entry to the home and began an aggressive fire attack.  At 8:06 a.m., conditions continued to worsen, with crews reporting high heat, a working basement fire with possible extension to the first floor and a partial collapse.  Sipe ordered an evacuation of the structure.

Crews then began a defensive attack knocking down all visible fire, according to the press release. Conditions improved greatly and command decided to send crews back into the basement and first floor. No visible fire was found and windows were opened for ventilation.

Crews found a partial collapse of the hallway adjoining the two structures. There was significant heat with no smoke on the adjoining structure.  When crews   attempted reentry they were met with deteriorating conditions and were again evacuated from the structure.  The fire was then fought from the exterior.  After extensive operations, the fire was deemed under control.

Under investigation

Chief Deputy Sipe said that the fire appeared to have originated in the basement of the home.  Initial supplementation provided from Morgan County ECC reported a possible electrical panel on fire in the basement with smoke throughout the residence. The cause of the fire is under investigation and the fire marshal was called in to investigate.

Sipe said that the house occupants were safely out the home when firefighters arrived.  The occupants reported that two dogs and a rabbit were still inside.

Firefighters were able to rescue one of the dogs. Animal Control transported the dog to the Animal Hospital.  The remaining dog and rabbit were found deceased.

Sipe said it’s unknown if the house is a total loss. The structure suffered smoke and heat damage.

The American Red Cross wasn’t called since the family declined receiving their services.

Firefighter taken ill

The press release confirmed Frederick County Chief 16 requested Advanced Life Support (ALS) for the possible fainting of a firefighter near the staging area.  Morgan County Medic 7-7 responded from the main station, took over patient care and transported the firefighter to Winchester Medical Center.

Responding units

Units that responded to the blaze were South Morgan, Berkeley Springs, Great Cacapon, Hancock, Slanesville, Maugansville, Sharpsburg, Long Meadow, Clear Spring, Sharpsburg, Reynolds Store, Gainesboro, Gore, Hedgesville, Back Creek Valley, South Berkeley, Bedington, Needmore, Orleans, Capon Bridge, Ridgeley and Franklin Volunteer Fire Companies.

Also responding were the Morgan County Emergency Medical Services, the Washington County Rehab and Air Unit, Emergency Management Agency units 2 and 3 and the Office of Emergency Services, Hogbin said.   The last unit went available from the fire scene at 2:14 p.m.