The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

November 12, 2013

Marlinton blaze re-ignites; residents assess damage

Before the West Virginia state fire marshal and his team could gauge what caused the fire in Marlinton on Sunday, the fire re-kindled Monday morning, Mayor Joe Smith said.

After the stress of dealing with the fire that ultimately destroyed four buildings, including several businesses and apartments, many in the town say they haven’t had the chance to sleep, including Marlinton’s mayor.

“The roof of the McKay building caved in yesterday onto the third floor,” Smith said. “They thought they had it out. The third floor caved-in around midmorning and when that happened, it rekindled. They basically had it out again, but we were debating about what to do with the shell. It’s a free-standing wall now.

“They’re letting it burn with hopes that the second-floor joists will burn through and collapse and pull the whole building in on itself. The state fire marshal is on the scene. That’s what he recommended to do. If that doesn’t happen, then we’re going to have to get a crane and knock the wall in. It’s just unsafe. We can’t open the streets up to any type of traffic or open any of the businesses that weren’t affected until we can get the thing secured and safe.”

Smith said the conditions were right for rekindling.

“I was a member of the fire department for almost 40 years,” he said. “Rekindles are quite common, especially in old buildings like this. This building was built back in 1899 or 1900. It’s the oldest commercial building in Marlinton. It’s three stories tall. It has double-layered brick on the outside.

“The timbers in it are just old rough-cut timbers. They’re just so old and dry that it’s not unusual for something like this to catch again. It’s also windy up here, too. The wind catches it and it flames up.”

Smith said the fire marshal hasn’t been able to do much because of safety issues.

“There’s a whole team here,” he said. “I don’t think they’ve been able to determine anything simply because I don’t think it’s safe to enter any of the buildings yet. Some of them spent the night. A couple of them were here (Sunday) and they called for additional help themselves. They’ve been here since 7 a.m.

“They did some measurements on the building and got a few photographs, but I’m not sure they have even made it to where they know where the original fire began, simply because of the safety aspect of it. One thing we don’t need is someone to get hurt.”

— E-mail: cneff@register-herald.com

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