Fire destroys 3 buildings

MARLINTON – Three buildings in downtown Marlinton are a total loss after a fire ripped through the structures early Sunday morning, officials said.

The blaze started in the back of Hudson’s V&S Variety at 213 Main St.

Pocahontas County Sheriff’s Deputy B.A. Shinaberry spotted the fire at about 3:30 a.m., and officials were on scene in a matter of minutes.

“The fire started in the back of the first building and spread from there,” Shinaberry told The Inter-Mountain Sunday evening. “The back of the building is a single floor, and then it goes up to two stories in the front. The fire just kept moving through the other buildings.”

Although all three buildings housed apartments on the upper floors, no injuries were reported by occupants. One firefighter did suffer injuries and was transported to Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, officials said.

The firefighter’s condition was unknown at presstime.

Because the structures are close together and high winds were whipping through the area, the fire quickly spread to the surrounding buildings, officials said. The blaze first moved to the Dirt Bean coffee shop, then to the Nationwide and H&R Block offices and finally to the Old Bank Building on the corner of Main Street and Third Avenue.

Firefighters from 19 companies, including Marlinton, Lewisburg, Renick, Cowen, Richwood and Greenbrier County battled the blaze for hours, finally getting it under control around 10 a.m. Smoke, though, still was billowing from the buildings after 2 p.m.

Aside from the smoke, one other serious issue facing those battling the fire was falling debris from the upper floors of the three-story Old Bank Building. Several departments worked past 1 p.m. to knock down portions of the building’s upper-floor walls to lessen the chances of a catastrophic collapse. Officials said the Division of Highways would help to bring down the walls of the burnt buildings Monday, and that Main Street would likely remain closed until that has been accomplished.

“I wasn’t here initially,” said Buster Varner of the Bartow-Frank-Durbin Fire Department. “They called for manpower first, then they called for tankers about 4 a.m., and we brought all three of our tankers down from Durbin and Greenbank. We’ve got all the county here now, Webster County and a lot of others, too. All the buildings are a total loss.”

The West Virginia State Fire Marshal remained on the scene throughout the day and into the evening investigating. No further details were available at presstime.

Several bystanders said this isn’t the first fire that has ravaged downtown Marlinton. In the late 1960s, a fire ripped through the same block, destroying a hotel, a restaurant and the city’s movie theater.

Contact Matthew Burdette at 304-636-2121, ext. 120 or via email at Follow him on Twitter at IMT_Burdette.