10 FDs battle fire in several W.Va. townhomes
Fire gutted at least 3 homes in Morgantown sending up smoke seen for miles
By Erin Cleavenger
The Dominion Post
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A massive structure fire that began around 11:35 a.m. Monday at Ashton Estates on Smithtown Road claimed three townhomes and damaged others before firefighters from nearly a dozen companies—from Monongalia and Marion counties—were able to douse the flames.
Thick, black smoke could be seen for miles as crews from area volunteer fire departments, along with the Morgantown Fire Department, worked the blaze from both sides of the building, trying to prevent the flames that were ripping through the homes at 982, 984 and 986 Ashton Place from spreading. A hole was eventually cut in the roof of the home at 980 by the firefighters, followed by a cloud of smoke that billowed from the new escape.
Neighbors watched in disbelief as the flames gutted the three homes, collapsing much of the building. A few locals jumped in to do what they could to help, delivering water bottles to crews battling in the heat. Residents of adjacent homes could be seen cautiously removing personal items as their siding began to melt away from the heat.
While all human residents were able to make it out safely, gasps were heard from onlookers as a family dog was carried out of one of the burning buildings by firefighters before being laid on the grass and covered with a sheet.
Stacey Nichols, one of the residents to lose their home in the blaze, was in disbelief as she watched the firefighters work. This wasn't her first experience losing her home in a fire—she had moved there after her previous home burnt down two years ago.
"I really thought that kind of thing was a once-in-a-lifetime event, " she said, at a loss for any other words.
Nichols said she called 911 after she saw flames coming from her air conditioning unit, although an official cause of the fire has yet to be determined by fire marshals who were on the scene.
Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom, who lives nearby, was also on the scene offering help to get additional ladder trucks from the city fire department on the scene as the fire ravaged the homes. Bloom said he had already reached out to the American Red Cross to provide help for the displaced victims.
Firefighters from Clinton District, Cassville, Triune Halleck, Granville, Westover and Brookhaven VFDs in Monongalia County, and Winfield, Valley, Bunner Ridge and Cool Springs VFDs in Marion County, all responded to the fire, which took the better part of three hours to extinguish. Crews from Mon EMS and the Monongalia County Sheriff's Department were also on the scene to assist.