Cumberland Times-News

January 15, 2014

Piedmont fire ruled accidental, caused by resident thawing pipes

Thirteen left homeless in Jan. 9 blaze that destroyed three downtown buildings

From Staff Reports
Cumberland Times-News

— PIEDMONT, W.Va. — The fire that destroyed three buildings in downtown Piedmont on Jan. 9 has been ruled accidental and was caused by a resident using an open flame to thaw copper pipes, according to State Fire Marshal Patrick Barker.

A total of six adults and seven children were displaced by the fire and three families were left homeless, Zach Barbe, Piedmont fire chief, said.

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,” Tranum said at the fire scene last week. “When I saw flames I knew it wasn’t going to be good. The buildings are so old.”

Despite the heavy losses in three buildings, the library was basically unscathed with the exception of minor smoke and water damage, according to Paula Boggs, library director and a city councilwoman. The trophy room that contains memorabilia also was spared, she added. Firefighters pushed all the books together and placed tarps over them, according to Boggs. The library will remain closed for several weeks while minor damages are assessed.

Ninety-one volunteer firefighters from four counties fought the 8:45 p.m. fire, which originated in a residence at 36 Second St., according to Barbe.

Piedmont firefighters as well as mutual aid companies were able to respond to the 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.

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

A call to Barbe about the estimated cost of damages was not returned by press time.