High winds pushed garage fire over Warm Springs Ridge; units from four states contain blaze

by Kate Evans        

Fire companies from the four-state area worked together to keep a garage fire from endangering the county’s school bus fleet and an elementary school last Friday evening. High winds and cold temperatures made fire response difficult but firefighters were able to keep the fire in check after several hours.

Morgan County Interim 911 Director Marshall Younker said that the fire didn’t get anywhere close to Widmyer Elementary or the bus garage, but that they placed a firetruck at the school just in case. School buses were also moved from the upper bus garage parking lot as a precaution, he said.

Spread to nearby woods

Flames of a woods fire were visible on Warm Springs Ridge on Friday, February 3. photo by Zachary Sipe

Younker said the initial dispatch call for the Paradise Lane garage fire off Cold Run Valley Road in Berkeley Springs went out at 4:02 p.m. on February 3. It was a very significant fire that spread from the auto mechanic shop The Garage, which is located in a garage, to the nearby woods on Warm Springs Ridge.

Embers from the garage fire ignited the woods on the ridge from the wind and caused the ensuing brush fire.

Smoke was visible from Valley Road at 5 p.m. as the fire moved up the side of the ridge. By nightfall, flames were visible from U.S. 522.

Younker said that between two and three acres of woods burned.  Firefighters got the brush fire contained at 9:05 p.m. and at 11:07 p.m. they were wrapping up the mountain fire and putting out the last few hot spots in the garage. Units were on the scene until 11:43 p.m.

Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Department Sergeant D. J. Zahnow, who was in command of the fire scene,  said that the owner of the business Marshall Stotler called in the fire. The cause of the fire is undetermined but they believed it may have been started by an operating space heater.  There were no injuries during the fire.

Fire units were placed at a road just past Paradise Lane on Cold Run Valley Road as a precautionary measure.

A total loss

Zahnow said that the garage is a total loss.  Estimated damages are around $1 million with the loss of the  building, equipment and cars that were inside at the time of the fire.

Zahnow said that they had some issues with access and icing conditions during the fire including freezing hoses, but nothing that significantly changed the fire’s outcome.  They had to call on many mutual aid partners to get the manpower needed to fight the blaze.

“We got it contained pretty quickly,” he said.

Fire destroyed a three-bay garage off Paradise Lane west of Berkeley Springs on Friday, February 3. Embers from the fire ignited a woods fire that burned for several more hours. photo by Andy Stotler

Responding units

Fire and rescue units staged along Cold Run Valley Road, and also in front of Widmyer Elementary. Access to the ridge line above the school was difficult for firefighters, as no roads lead directly to the area.

Units that responded to the garage and brush fire were Berkeley Springs, Great Cacapon, South Morgan, Paw Paw, Hancock, Clear Spring, Reynold’s Store, Gainesboro, Hedgesville, Orleans, Flintstone, Williamsport, Bedington, Ridgeley, Needmore, Round Hill Community and North Mountain Volunteer Fire Departments and the Frederick County Wildlands Fire Unit team.

Capon Bridge Volunteer Fire Department covered Paw Paw’s fire house and Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Company covered Berkeley Springs’ fire house.  St. Thomas Volunteer Fire Department came to cover as well but also responded to calls as there was so much going on at the time, Younker said.

Morgan County Emergency Medical Services, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff’s Deputy Reserves and the Washington County Air Unit 252 also responded to the fire along with the Department of Highways who salted the road, Younker said.

Multiple calls during fire

Younker said that they were also responding to a number of other calls during the time of the Paradise Lane garage and brush fire including mutual aid to a Fulton County fire near Needmore, a shed fire at 6500 Highland Ridge Road, a mountain fire off Spotted Fawn Lane in Largent, a car accident and a commercial fire alarm at the Ice House.

“It was very hectic for around three hours getting them all handled,” Younker said of Friday’s fire and accident calls.

To help the family

An account has been set up at CNB Bank in the name of Carolyn and Marshall Stotler, owners of the garage, where people can make donations to help them recover from the fire loss.

A fully involved garage fire on February 3. photo by Andy Stotler