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Fire calls keep crews busy in W.Va.

June 19, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Firefighters returning from a Sunday morning fire that left eight people homeless on West Washington Street were called to a fire that consumed 30 acres of a hayfield in nearby Rippon, W.Va., in Jefferson County, officials said.

The fire at 306 W. Washington St., reported at 10:49 a.m., "burnt up one apartment and severely damaged two others" on the fourth floor, said Chief Ed Smith of Independent Fire Co.

A business, Children's Ministries, occupies the first floor of the building owned by Carlos Viederhauser, while apartments are on the second, third and fourth floors. Eight adults were displaced by the fire, Smith said.

Viederhauser offered the displaced residents a place to stay in another one of his buildings, Smith said.

Estimates place the fire damage at $50,000, but water and smoke damage could boost that closer to $75,000, he said.

An electrical problem is believed to have started the fire, which created extreme temperatures trapped on the fourth floor by the roof. Belongings on that floor melted, he said.

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Firefighters battled the blaze for two hours in 95-degree temperatures, Smith said.

Many of those firefighters from Jefferson and Berkeley counties in West Virginia and Clarke County, Va., then responded to the 2 p.m. fire in a hayfield on Myerstown Road. They were on the scene of that fire for another two hours.

"The fire was started by a possible spark by the tractor's exhaust," Independent Fire Co. Lt. Tyree Kable said, explaining that a farmer had been cutting the timothy hay with a combine.

"It burned approximately 30 acres of standing and windrowed hayfield," Kable said.

That could translate into a loss of $25,000 to $30,000 for the family, he said.

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