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Storage facility fire considered suspicious

March 10, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

RANSON, W.VA. - A fire that destroyed more than a dozen storage units in Ranson early Friday is considered to be suspicious and is being investigated by the Ranson Police Department and the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's office, Independent Fire Co. Chief Ed Smith said.

Firefighters from all five Jefferson County companies, along with units from Berkeley County, Virginia and Maryland, were dispatched to Jefferson Self-Storage at 501 N. Mildred St., beginning at 3:23 a.m., Smith said.

Damage to the storage facility was estimated at $150,000, but Smith was unsure about the damage to the contents of 15 units, ranging from furniture to pianos.

"There's a lot of stuff stored in there ... As a rough guess, we're starting at $50,000," Smith said.

Kara Money, office manager for Jefferson Self-Storage, said the business didn't keep an inventory of what was contained at the business, but confirmed that 14 units of the 323-unit facility were destroyed and others had received smoke damage.

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Money said the business did not have to close because of the fire, and said storage units were available to rent.

Business owner Ron Llewellyn of Front Royal, Va., was not immediately available for comment.

Money said she was contacted about 3:45 a.m. about the fire, which began in a unit on the back side of the storage facility away from North Mildred Street, Smith said.

"There was some vandalism in the area," Smith said. "As best we can tell, it started on an end unit."

More than 40 firefighters who responded were able to cut the fire off and save 25 adjoining units, Smith said. But the construction of the facility made it difficult for personnel to get to the fire, Smith said.

"We had to use chain saws to get to the fire," Smith said of the metal building.

The last fire department personnel did not leave the scene of the fire until about 8:30 a.m., Smith said.

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