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Vandals torch Inwood's community Christmas tree

December 05, 1996

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

INWOOD, W.Va. - A 32-foot Christmas tree, trimmed by more than 40 volunteers this weekend and lit in a community-wide ceremony on Monday, was set afire by vandals during the night Tuesday.

The fire burned a three-foot wide swath up the tree from its base to the top destroying wiring, lights and decorations along its way, said Ray A. Ring of Bunker Hill, an organizer of the effort to put up a Christmas tree in Inwood for the second year in a row.

"It was a beautiful tree. The fire destroyed the looks of it," Ring said. "It's frustrating to know that those who did this may never be caught."

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He said the community will try to repair the damage by sticking branches into the burned-out areas of the tree.

Ring said the tree was the centerpiece of an effort to celebrate Christmas in Inwood. Residents call the celebration, which included a 53-unit parade through Inwood Monday evening, the South Berkeley Community Christmas Tree.

South Berkeley Fire Department officials said the tree was still too green to burn well. They said an accelerant was used to start the fire. The state fire marshal's office will investigate today, Ring said.

The tree was donated by Duane and Janet Brown of Gerrardstown in memory of Paul and Jesse Brown, Ring said. It was trucked to the site in the rear of Huntington Bank by a local company on Nov. 13 and decorated by volunteers Saturday, said Charline Cameron, chairman of the organizing committee.

More than 3,000 people turned out for the parade and tree-lighting ceremony Monday night, Ring said.

Inwood, which is unincorporated, is one of the fastest-growing area's of Berkeley County.

"It's very sad," Cameron said of the vandalism. "In our hearts the tree represented our community pride. You could see that in faces of the people at the parade and at the tree lighting. The fire won't dampen that."

Ring, a retired Greenville, S.C., fire chief, retired to the Inwood area. He said it always has been his daughter's dream to have a community Christmas tree in Inwood, so he decided to help her set one up last year.

Ring's daughter, Cora Crim, said she thought it was time that Inwood have its own community Christmas tree just like other area towns. "It's time for Inwood to join the crowd," she said.

"It's sad that anyone would want to do this to our tree. It represents the town's pride. That tree is a symbol of our beginning," she said.

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