Petersburg football team flooded with support following field house fire

Petersburg High School football players watch as the school's field house burns on Wednesday afternoon.

PETERSBURG, W.Va. — Wednesday's late afternoon fire in the field house at Petersburg High School may have damaged the building and destroyed football equipment, but it has also rallied nearby communities to come to the aid of their Grant County neighbors.

“”This is a great story that needs to be told,” Peggy Alt, director of the Grant County Communications Center, said 

It was late afternoon when smoke began rising from the field house as the football squad practiced in preparation for Friday’s season finale against East Hardy. That game will now be played in Moorefield.

The incident sparked an outpouring of support from communities, schools, businesses, private citizens and others.

“Schools from around the state and even Maryland and Ohio have started reaching out offering anything they can,” Travis Liller, the school's athletic director, said Thursday.

Liller said the support shows the "good in humanity."

“This is a life lesson that can be taught during times of adversity such as is being faced right now,” he said.

The incident also prompted the support of Gov. Jim Justice, who said he and his wife, Cathy, were relieved to hear no one was injured.

"We understand that much of the team’s equipment was damaged and can’t be immediately repaired or replaced," Justice said. "However, we’ve been told the response from many schools across the region has been incredible and will allow the Vikings to suit up and finish their season Friday night." 

Sean Biser's Keyser High School football team supplied helmets, shoulder pads and other equipment to Vikings players for the Friday game. Moorefield coach Matt Altobello offered use of his team's stadium.

Petersburg Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bobby Funk said the fire was accidental in nature and occurred in the area of the field house furnace room after a can of paint was dropped nearby.

"There was smoke rolling all around when we got there," said Funk about the fire that extensively damaged the block building.

The property loss was estimated at $150,000 to the building and $60,000 in contents, the chief said. 

The fire occurred as varsity football team members were getting ready for practice. At the same time, two students were in the training room with a trainer.

"They all got out," Liller said. "Nobody was injured. They can still go play their game. Thank God."

More than two dozen volunteer firefighters from Petersburg, Moorefield and Maysville responded to the scene following a 911 call to the Grant County Communications Center just before 4 p.m.

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