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Fire damages Berkeley Co. sewer building and vehicles

December 13, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A fire discovered Wednesday morning by a Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District employee at the agency's six-bay garage off Eagle School Road caused thousands of dollars in damage to five vehicles and equipment, officials said.

The white interior walls of the district's green metal building at 2810 Eagle School Road were blackened with soot, but otherwise appeared to be stable.

"They're probably going to have to bring an engineer in to look at it," Baker Heights Volunteer Fire Department Chief Marty Roberts said of the building's structural integrity after leaving the fire scene about 9 a.m., little more than two hours after being dispatched.

If the building has to be replaced, losses could increase to $1 million, Roberts said.

"(The property) suffered a tremendous amount of heat and smoke damage," Roberts said.

The fire apparently started in a 2005 Ford F-550 utility truck sometime after employees left work Tuesday, according to Roberts and Curtis Keller, the sewer district's general manager.

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"There was no sign of any break-in," Keller said.

Before nearly burning itself out, a buildup of heat and smoke in the insulated building created ovenlike conditions for the other four vehicles, a sewer cleaning machine and other equipment inside, Roberts and Keller said.

"The seats (in the F-550) were nothing but frames," Roberts said. "The tires were completely burnt off."

If not salvageable, a tanker truck parked in the garage would cost more than $100,000 to replace and Keller said the district might have to hire a private hauler to help them maintain the district's package treatment plants and pump stations. A Ford F-250 truck for construction projects and a Ford F-350 with a dump body also were parked in the garage, which was built at the Opequon-Hedgesville treatment plant within the last five or six years, Keller said.

"It's one of those things," Keller said of the fire damage. "We'll get through it."

Keller said the property was insured, and he didn't expect sewer customers would be affected by the blaze.

Dispatched at 6:57 a.m., firefighters discovered the nearest hydrant was more than a mile away from the garage, Roberts said. Tankers hauled water to the scene, and crews from the Shepherdstown Volunteer Fire Department, Bedington Volunteer Fire Department, Martinsburg Fire Department and the Berkeley County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management also responded, Roberts said.

Roberts said they were unable to open the garage doors and had to cut through one of them to ventilate the building.

Roberts said he couldn't pinpoint an exact location of the fire's origin in the F-550.

The chief said he requested the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's office to investigate because of the substantial monetary loss.

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