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Martinsburg firefighter treated for smoke inhalation

September 28, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A Martinsburg firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation after responding to a blaze that caused significant damage to a downtown building early Monday, fire officials said.

The injured firefighter, Lt. Donna Harmison, was treated at City Hospital in Martinsburg and released, Capt. G. Edgar "Eddie" Gochenour said.

Reported at 2:57 a.m., the fire at 200 W. Burke St. remains under investigation and the cause has not been determined, said Lt. Greg Hoover, the Martinsburg Fire Department's chief fire investigator.

"We have a lot of follow-up interviews to do," Hoover said Monday afternoon.

The fire started in the basement and spread into the central portion of the first and second floors and attic of the building, Hoover said.

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Vacant for about two years, the building was being renovated for a restaurant and bar, according to applications filed with the city this month.

Last Tuesday, the city planning department issued owner Daniel Helmut of DC Properties LLC a building permit for an estimated $500 in plumbing repairs, according to city planning department records.

Helmut, who purchased the property in July 2005 for $304,000, said Monday that he loved the building's Victorian-style architecture and intended to restore it.

"My plan is to absolutely save the building," said Helmut, of Boyce, Va.

Helmut said he recently had signed a contract with individuals who were planning to open another restaurant in the building. The property previously was the home of Island's Bar & Grill and before that, The Counsellor's Grill and The Peppermill restaurant.

"We don't know what's going to happen now," said Tomi Morris, a managing member of Fahrenheit 366 LLC. Fahrenheit LLC dba The Burke Lodge is listed as the applicant for a variance application filed with the city last week to serve alcohol at the restaurant, according to planning department records. A zoning map amendment request also was submitted to the city to change the property's zoning designation to downtown business because the property is zoned service business, which prohibits restaurants, according to the city's planning department.

Hired to be the restaurant's manager, Morris said the business name is The Lodge Restaurant & Bar.

The establishment was originally supposed to open before Thanksgiving, but that plan was delayed until December or early January, Morris said.

Plans for the building included conference and dining rooms and a bar on the second floor of the building, in addition to a downstairs dining area with another bar, according to a variance application filed in the city planning department.

"It's been a rough morning," Morris said as the fire department was investigating inside the building, which was surrounded by yellow fire line tape. Curtains fluttered through some of the windows that were broken out on the second floor because of the fire and a burnt dining room chair was sitting on the sidewalk amid a spray of broken glass late Monday morning.

When firefighters arrived, Hoover said there was a large of amount of smoke coming from the building, but no visible flames.

About 15 units from the fire department were assisted by firefighters from the Bedington and Baker Heights volunteer fire departments. The Berkeley County Ambulance Authority also responded to the blaze, which Hoover said took several hours to extinguish.

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