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Morgan Co. Courthouse fire is ruled accidental

August 17, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.VA. - Last week's Morgan County Courthouse fire started in the ceiling of the second-floor courtroom as a result of an electrical short involving the building's original wiring, investigators with the West Virginia Fire Marshal's office announced Wednesday.

The cause of the Aug. 6 fire is accidental in nature, according to assistant state Fire Marshal Ed Robinson.

Robinson estimated the fire caused up to $5 million or more in losses when it spread through the building, which opened in 1908.

Robinson and other officials thanked the community, including fire departments in both Morgan and Berkeley counties, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and others who assisted with the investigation.

In a news release Wednesday, the Fire Marshal's office attributed the "cooperation of the community at large" for helping bring about a "safe, secure and expedient conclusion" of the investigation.

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The fire started in the ceiling and spread throughout the circa-1908 courthouse.

A number of other county offices were damaged as well.

The Morgan County Commission is expected to decide what to do about replacing the courthouse within 90 days, officials have said.

County government now is operating out of temporary offices at the West Virginia State Police detachment in Berkeley Springs and the county's board of education offices, among other locations. Elected officials were expected to move into modular housing units Wednesday.

Morgan County Commission President Glen Stotler previously has said county officials were seeking proposals from architectural firms to construct a new courthouse. Proposals should be submitted to the Morgan County Commission, P.O. Box 28, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411 by Aug. 31.

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