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January 11, 2014

Piedmont residents assess damage

Firefighters managed to save contents of library from flames

PIEDMONT, W.Va. — Residents ignored the rainy weather Saturday to assess the damage from a fire that destroyed three buildings and left 13 people homeless on Thursday.

Despite the heavy losses, the library was basically unscathed with the exception of minor smoke and water damage, according to Paula Boggs, library director and a city councilwo-man. The fire companies pushed all the books together and placed tarps over them.

“I just wanted to say thanks to all the fire companies for everything they did,” said Boggs.

The trophy room that contains memorabilia also was spared, she added.

“Efforts to prevent the spread of the fire to the library were successful and fire operations continued in the other buildings,” said Zach Barbe, Piedmont fire chief.

The library will remain closed, likely for several weeks, until the minor damages can be assessed, Boggs said. Barbe suggested that the building be inspected because of the intensity of the heat. The brick structure expanded during the blaze and may become cracked, according to Boggs.  

A resident who wished to remain anonymous was moving $15,000 worth of restaurant equipment that was stored in T&K Outlet onto a truck Saturday afternoon. The man said he couldn’t determine the extent of damage to the equipment until he placed it in storage and was able to dry it off.  

Beth Tranum, who resided at 34 Second St., said she called 911 when she saw the smoke coming from upstairs and then proceeded to ensure that all four of her children, her godson and six pets made it out of the building safely.

“I was the last one out,” said Tranum. “When I saw flames I knew it was going to be good. The buildings are so old.”

The library and the buildings surrounding it are more than 100 years old, according to Barbe.

Tranum’s dog, Butterball, had a close call during the emergency, she said. The animal went back into the house but was later found un-harmed by a firefighter, said Tranum, who rescued the dog a month ago.

“I just want to say thanks to all the fire departments, thanks to everyone who helped out and thanks to the dog pound in Keyser for housing my dogs until all of us find a home,” said Tranum, who said the Mineral County Human Society is currently accepting food donations.

The American Red Cross provided a hotel for the victims until Monday and provided money for clothing, according to Tranum. A total of six adults and seven children were displaced by the fire and three families were left homeless, according to Barbe. Pastor Steve Grimes of Trinity United Methodist Church assisted the families until the Red Cross could reach them.

The three buildings ravaged by the fire are a complete loss and will have to be demolished, according to Barbe.

Ninety-one volunteer firefighters and a total of companies either filled in, were on standby or responded to the fire, which originated in a residence at 36 Second St., according to Barbe.

“Everyone pulled together and did a great job. It’s a good group of volunteers,” said Barbe.

Piedmont firefighters as well as mutual aid were able to respond to the 8:45 p.m. fire in under two minutes because they were just finishing up a call for an odor in a commercial building on Jones Street, according to Barbe.

“First arriving units on scene advised that there was a working fire in the rear of the structure,” said Barbe.

Engines from Tri-Towns Volunteer Fire Department and from Bloomington Volunteer Fire Department manned the front of the building while engines from Potomac Volunteer Fire Department and Barton Volunteer Fire De-partment worked the rear, where the bulk of the fire was located, according to Barbe.

 “Crews on the rear of the building were hampered in making an attack on the fire due to a gas line that was ruptured and (was) fueling the fire. Utilities were shut off to the building by 19’s (Barton) engine crew,” said Barbe. “The fire caused structural collapse in the building which made the interior attack impossible. Ladder trucks were placed around the structures to protect exposures.”

The fire was still able to travel to adjacent buildings, according to Barbe.

The fire was extinguished at 5:06 a.m.

Two Piedmont firefighters sustained minor injuries in the fire operation and were released following emergency room treatment at Potomac Valley Hospital.

The West Virginia State Fire Marshal is investigating and as of press time there was no further information on cause or total estimated damage.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at

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