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Fires displace W.Va. families

August 03, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A family of three lost their home off Opequon Lane in Berkeley County in a fire early Thursday and at least five other families were displaced by an apartment blaze Wednesday night in Berkeley County, but no one was injured, according to fire officials.

A firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion after responding to both calls beginning with the blaze at a residential complex at 16 Capital Drive at 9:39 p.m. Wednesday and then to a Cape Cod-style wood cedar home at 1684 Opequon Lane early Thursday, said Marty Roberts, chief of Baker Heights Volunteer Fire Department.

A third fire at a vacant house off Emerson Drive in Potomac Hills subdivision in northern Berkeley County was intentionally set sometime before 911 received the call at 12:29 a.m., according to preliminary investigations by the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department and Assistant State Fire Marshal Ed Robinson.

The fire on Capital Drive on the southeastern edge of the City of Martinsburg was caused by kids playing with matches, Robinson said.

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Roberts said the fire damage was largely confined to a bedroom, but that still forced neighbors to be displaced because of electrical damage and the need to shut off power to the complex.

An official with the Berkeley County chapter of The American Red Cross said the agency was helping five displaced families affected.

Robinson expected power to be restored to the complex by Thursday evening.

Minutes before the Opequon Lane call was received by 911 at 2:49 a.m., Roberts said a man stopped by the fire department's station off W.Va. 9 on his way home from work and told a member that they might want to investigate the "large glow in the sky" he saw from his vehicle.

By the time firefighters arrived, the home was only "partially standing in parts" and within a matter of minutes was on the ground, Roberts said.

Robinson said he had not made a preliminary finding concerning the fire's cause off Opequon Lane.

Roberts said the blaze spread a little beyond the home on the ground into a wooded area. He declined to immediately identify the occupants other than to say they were a mother, a teenage girl and a elementary school-age boy.

The damage to the vacant home off Emerson Drive was estimated at less than $7,500, according to Tommy Newcomb of the Bedington Volunteer Fire Department.

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