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The first call to Pocahontas County 9-1-1 came in at 2:47am Sunday, November 10th. Soon, a row of businesses on Main street in Marlinton that housed both businesses and private residences was engulfed in flames. The fire, aided by powerful wind gusts, took the better part of the day to extinguish. By late afternoon Sunday, only a few small hot spots were still burning and an acrid smoke lay heavy over the downtown area. Pocahontas Emergency Services director Shawn Dunbrack says they were beginning the cleanup following the fire.
“At this point we’re just working with the fire marshal’s office, they’re starting their investigation, and we’re trying to do as much cleanup and get out of the way,” said Dunbrack, “make sure the building is safe, keep the streets blocked off; make sure no one comes through Main street.”
Dunbrack said that local firefighters were expected to patrol the buildings through the night keeping an eye on and extinguishing any “hot spot” that might try to flare up. At least one local fire fighter was taken to Pocahontas Memorial Hospital with suspected smoke inhalation and dehydration.
Seven to eight private residences were completely destroyed by the fire, displacing 13 people. Additionally several businesses were also lost. Jim Bialek, owner of the Nationwide insurance office, says his business was not touched by the fire, but is a total loss nevertheless.
“It looks like mostly it’s the second and third floor got the fire damage, and we’re located on the first floor and it looks like it’s just water damage at this point,” said Bialek. “It’s hard to tell what structurally happened inside, we can’t go inside; I understand it’s not safe to go inside.”
Bialek says they have already secured a temporary home and will be back open for business on Monday.
Unfortunately many of the other businesses will not be able to reopen as quickly, if at all.
The Red Cross is focusing on meeting personal needs of the fire victims. Disaster Coordinator Mary Ann Stroud talks about what they can do for those displaced by the fire.
“We are setting up at the 9-1-1 here and we are working on getting, if they don’t have housing, getting them set up in housing for three days,” she said. “We can give them a clothing voucher and if they have medicine, if they take medicine on a daily basis, they’re going to need a letter from myself or the 9-1-1 center stating that they do take this medicine, that they’re house was a total loss so they can take it to their doctor to get the medicine given back to them.”
Stroud says that also applies to diabetic medications or any kind of prescribed narcotic drugs. She says that she appreciates that many people want to donate clothing or other items, but neither the 9-1-1 center nor the Red Cross are able to accept such donations.
“9-1-1 center’s not equipped to handle it, we’re not equipped to handle it, but if they have things like that that are available to them, we need to partner up with a church in the area that would let us store things there and then they could come in and get it,” said Stroud.
You can contact Stroud at 304-877-8346