Cause of Paw Paw house fire still undetermined, says fire official

by Kate Evans

Area firefighters responded to an evening blaze in a home on Amelia Street in Paw Paw on Tuesday, September 5.    The fire was called in to Morgan County 911 Dispatch at 9:20 p.m.  as a structure fire at 175 Amelia St., said Morgan County 911 Director  Marshall Younker.

Paw Paw Volunteer Fire Company Assistant Chief Jason Whisner who was in command of the fire scene said that Paw Paw fire units arrived on the scene at 9:25 p.m. They found the two-story, single family home fully engulfed with heavy fire on all sides of the home.

All the occupants got safely out of the burning home before the fire got bad, but two dogs were trapped inside, Whisner said.  They found the one dog inside, but didn’t find the other.

Whisner said that the home was a total loss.  There were no injuries to firefighters or to the home’s residents.  The fire was contained to the dwelling and didn’t endanger any other surrounding structures.

Responding units

Initial units that responded to the fire were Paw Paw, Great Cacapon, Slanesville and Oldtown Volunteer Fire Companies and Morgan County Emergency Medical Services, said Younker.    Additional tankers and units came from Berkeley Springs, Levels, and Reynolds Store Volunteer Fire Companies.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Department also responded and the safety officer from Great Cacapon Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to the fire scene, Younker said.  The last unit cleared the fire scene at 2:10 a.m.

The American Red Cross was also requested and was on the scene the next morning, Whisner said. A GoFundMe fundraiser was started for the family.

There was also a rekindle of the fire in the back room a little after 6 a.m. that morning, he said.  Paw Paw Volunteer Fire Company units were able to completely extinguish the rekindle.

Safety officer

Whisner said that dispatching a fire company safety officer to the scene is new.  Each Morgan County fire department has always had a safety officer.  They work in tandem with command at a fire scene to ensure the safety of all first responders at the fire.

If a company’s safety officer is working or unavailable, the command officer at the fire scene can request that one from another fire company be dispatched, Whisner said.  It ensures a safer fire scene.

Whisner said it was a large fire scene with probably 30 firefighters there.  It was so hot that night that firefighters were getting exhausted.  Two Morgan County EMS ambulances were there so there was still one on the scene in case one ambulance had to transport someone from the fire.

The official cause of the fire is undetermined, Whisner said.  He had heard from several people that the fire was caused by a burning candle that got knocked over, but Whisner said he can’t confirm it.  The intense damage to the home would make it extremely difficult to show that as the fire cause.