Cumberland Times-News

January 25, 2014

Apartment house fire claims one life in Romney

Quick-acting off-duty firefighter safely evacuates second resident

Greg Larry
Cumberland Times-News

— ROMNEY, W.Va. — Although an alert firefighter was able to lead a first-floor resident safely out of a burning Bolton Street apartment house in Romney on Saturday, a second-floor resident perished in the early morning blaze.

“It’s a sad situation with the deceased. But everyone did a great job,” said Garrett “GT” Parsons, chief of the Romney Volunteer Fire Department, who arrived at the scene shortly after being notified around 5:25 a.m.

Parsons received a call that a two-unit apartment house on Bolton Street was on fire and that people may be trapped inside.

“He radioed me direct,” said Parsons.

The person behind the radio contact was Dustin Amtower, a fellow firefighter and close friend of Parsons. Amtower was the first to discover the blaze.

“I saw a little bit of smoke coming from behind 7-Eleven,” said Amtower.

 The fire chief of the New Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Amtower was driving east on U.S Route 50 to work his shift as a paid firefighter with the city of Winchester, Va.

Amtower was passing through Romney around 5:25 a.m. and pulled into the 7-Eleven convenience store upon seeing the smoke.

“I saw an orange glow coming from a window. Then I saw some smoke coming from the eaves,” said Amtower.

After alerting the area 911 dispatch to the fire, Amtower took action.

He was able to rouse a female resident from a first-floor residence and get her out. Then he tried to get in the rear door of the second-floor unit where the fire was emanating from.

“It took me a couple kicks, but I kicked the door in,” said Amtower.

Amtower said he was able to rescue a dog, which was in the proximity of the door. However, a man located inside the unit who was pulled from the building did not survive, according to Amtower.

The victim was transported to Hampshire Memorial Hospital by the Romney Rescue Squad where he was pronounced dead.

The identity of the victim has not yet been disclosed. The fire is under investigation by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office.

“The smoke was too intense,” said Amtower.

Parsons said the fire was contained to the kitchen and the living room of the second floor.

Fire companies responding to the blaze were Romney, Augusta, Springfield, Burlington, Fort Ashby, New Creek and Slanesville.

“We had the fire under control by around 6 a.m.,” said Parsons.

Officials say the cause of the fire does not appear to be suspicious.

Amtower said he prefers to stay out of the limelight.

“I don’t do it for the publicity. It’s my duty. It’s something all firefighters do,” said Amtower.

Amtower said he hated to leave the scene of the blaze but he needed to get to his shift in Winchester.

“I made it to my shift in time. My fire chief said it would have been all right if I was late,” said Amtower.

Parsons stressed the importance for all residences to have working smoke detectors. He said the apartment building’s detectors were not operational.

Greg Larry can be contacted at