The sheer number of fires in the region in recent weeks, especially in the past three days, has raised concern that perhaps something is amiss locally. The dreaded word “arson” has been uttered in response to this rash of incidents.

While we believe asking this question is valid, we want to urge area residents not to make assumptions until more information is known about the origin or origins of these fires. The Inter-Mountain has questioned whether foul play could have been a factor in any or all of the blazes that have rocked our region recently.

What we’ve been told is: Nothing has come to light at this time, and investigations continue. The State Fire Marshal’s Office is involved in these investigations, and reports are expected to be forthcoming.

Elkins Fire Department Chief Tom Meader said Tuesday fires often happen in 3’s. That’s true of so many tragedies. When a celebrity dies, gossip sites speculate on who in Hollywood will be next to meet such a fate. It’s grim – but often true – that such self-fulfilling prophesies of doom come to fruition.

The dark clouds of smoke from these recent blazes are symbolic reminders of the weight of grief that has hung heavy over our community. Families have lost lives. Homes have been destroyed. And dreams have been shattered.

On Tuesday, The Inter-Mountain learned the vacant structure that formerly housed Runner Funeral Home was in the process of being secured for use as a homeless shelter. This service could have greatly enriched our city and provided a safe respite for those in need.

For now, those plans literally have gone up in smoke. Given the resilience we’ve seen in this area, We believe the project will be resurrected. It will rise from the ashes like a phoenix, and so, too, will the spirits of those who have been affected by the aftermath these fires have left in their wake.

Until then, idle speculation about what is causing these fires might do more harm than good. Instead, we encourage everyone to invest time in learning about fire safety and prevention.

  • Ensure smoke detectors are installed in all homes and near sleeping areas;
  • Check batteries in these detectors on a monthly basis, and change batteries twice annually, such as in conjunction with Daylight Savings Time shifts in spring and fall;
  • Create and practice using an emergency escape plan in the event of fire or other disaster, and set a designated meeting place for when an evacuation takes place; and
  • Seek more information about fire safety and prevention from reputable, informative resources, such as the U.S. Fire Administration’s website, apps.usfa.fema.gov.

As children, we are trained in school to calmly exit when a fire drill sounds. We hope residents will follow that same lesson plan in this situation and calmly wait to learn what is behind this recent string of incidents.

Then, once all facts are known, perhaps a course of action – if any – will be clearly visible and not obscured by the haze from fires that have burned too close to homes and our hearts.