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Allensville Road fire still under investigation

March 10, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A fire that burned about 48 acres on Monday and five other fires reported last weekend remain under investigation, fire officials said Tuesday evening.

Jim Guerrin, a wild land fire control expert with the West Virginia Division of Forestry, said the agency was still investigating the cause of the blaze off Allensville Road.

The 1 p.m. fire destroyed a mobile home, and damaged another residence and three shelters for horses, Guerrin said.

The wildfire danger rating for Berkeley County is currently "moderate," but windy conditions fueled the blaze, Guerrin said. A lack of precipitation also was a factor, he added.

More than 100 firefighters and other volunteers from the Tri-State area responded to the fire, which spanned more than eight hours, officials have said.

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The fire began along Rejoice Lane, which is near the North Mountain Landfill north of Hedgesville. Fire crews did not leave the scene until 9:30 p.m.

Other fires under investigation include:

o Douglas Grove Road: Fires damaged two homes early Saturday.

o U.S. 11 (Williamsport Pike): A fire Saturday evening caused significant interior damage to Maidstone on the Potomac, a historic home directly across the Potomac River bridge connecting U.S. 11 to Williamsport, Md., Berkeley County Sheriff Kenneth M. "Kenny" Lemaster Jr. said.

o W.Va. 45: On Saturday night, an unoccupied farmhouse between Martinsburg and Arden, W.Va., burned.

o W.Va. 9 (Hedgesville Road): Early Sunday, a fire destroyed an old fruit-packing shed near Heffle Motor Co.

Assistant State Fire Marshal Patrick Barker said Tuesday evening that all of the fires are still under investigation.

Lemaster said because so many blazes occurred in such a short span, he believes someone might have set them, but he stopped short of saying they were arsons. The sheriff's department's fire investigation team has been working with Barker on probing the incidents.

While the investigations continue, Lemaster said the firefighters who responded to the incidents were worthy of praise.

"They've done a tremendous job," Lemaster said.

Anyone with information about the fires may contact the West Virginia Arson Hotline at 800-233-FIRE (3473) or Berkeley County Crime Solvers at 304-267-4999.

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