Tomblin: Cigarette may have started blaze

ELKINS – No cause has officially been named in Monday’s fatal fire on Central Street, but Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin stated Friday the blaze may have been started by a cigarette.

Tomblin, in a column released Friday afternoon, said investigators suspect that a cigarette may have sparked the fire which killed five, but no official cause has yet been released.

The fire is being investigated by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Elkins Fire Chief Tom Meader and Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker confirmed Friday they had received no official word to date on the cause of the fire.

The father of the family, Alan Chamberlain, 29, and the family’s four children – Katie Bolgar, 11, Isabella Chamberlain, 4, Brienna Chamberlain, 2, and Alanna Chamberlain, 2 – all died as a result of the tragedy.

Officials from the West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh said two people – the mother, Jennifer Chamberlain, 34, and her brother, Jeff Hyde – still are being treated at the facility.

Fundraising efforts continue as local residents strive to assist and honor the Chamberlain family.

On Monday, a candlelight vigil for the Chamberlain family is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. at the Elkins Town Square. A bucket will be passed during the vigil to collect donations to help the family. The event is being spearheaded by Elkins Mayor Van Broughton.

“Please keep the Chamberlain family members, friends and all first responders in your thoughts and prayers,” Broughton said. “We are preparing for 1,500 people to attend this vigil.”

A checking account was opened Wednesday allowing for donations for the family to be made at any Citizens Bank of West Virginia office, including those located in Elkins, Beverly, Parsons and Snowshoe. Donations can be mailed to Chamberlain Family Memorial Fund, c/o Citizens Bank of West Virginia, P.O. Box 1519, Elkins, WV 26241. Include account number 1045 in the memo part of your check.

“I am excited because when I checked the balance at 2 p.m. Friday, there was nearly $4,000 in the account,” Broughton said. “We have a great start to help the family. I really want to thank members of the community. This shows how much love and support there is in Elkins, Randolph County and the surrounding North Central region.”

Broughton said he and another individual in Elkins are finalizing an application with the West Virginia University football program which will allow information about the Chamberlain family checking account and other fundraisers to be displayed on the scoreboard during the WVU game against Texas Nov. 9.

A group that calls themselves “Friends and Family of Jen and Alan Chamberlain” are hosting a bake sale, hot dog sale, raffle and 50-50 drawing beginning at 10 a.m. Nov. 9 at the Valley Point Mall near Kmart in Elkins.

The group is asking for people to donate baked goods or money for the event. All proceeds from this sale will go to the Chamberlain family.

The first announced benefit for the family was made public Tuesday when Harvey Taylor, a Randolph County Board of Education member, said the event will be “a combination cakewalk, 50/50 drawing and auction” held at George Ward Elementary School at 4 p.m. on Nov. 9.

“We will be meeting at 1 p.m. this Sunday to go over the plans for this event,” Taylor said Friday. “I am glad we are working together as a county to help this family. The response to help has been overwhelming.

“I am so appreciative for all of the calls about donations. Also, local businesses are calling me with items they want to donate to help out. This is proof of how much this community and its businesses really care.”

Taylor said all proceeds from the event will go toward the family’s funeral costs.

Another group of friends has organized a spaghetti dinner to help the family. The dinner will be at the First Baptist Church in Elkins from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 16. Dinners include a salad, drink, spaghetti, meatballs and garlic bread. Carry out will be available. Dinners are $7 for adults and $3 for kids 10 and under. Tickets are available at the door.

The group is organizing another event at the end of the month, and in January will sponsor an elimination dinner, 5K race and chicken BBQ, with proceeds goint to benefit the family.

At Elkins Middle School, students and teachers will be collecting books and donations in memory of Katie Bolgar, who was a student at the school.

From Monday through Nov. 8, the school will dedicate a section of the EMS library to Katie and are asking residents to purchase books suitable for 11- to 14-year-olds. Books and donations may be dropped off at the school any weekday from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A haunted house has been planned for 6 to 9 p.m. today and Sunday at 301 Central St. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Chamberlain family fund.

The Elkins Volunteer Fire Department has offeed to buy and install a smoke detector for anyone who can’t afford one.

“Those that have smoke detectors, please make sure they are in working order and change the batteries this Saturday when we set our clocks back. Make sure to have one in every sleeping area, on each level of the home, in the hallways and in the cooking area.”

Contact Beth Christian Broschart by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter at ITM-Broschart.