Marlinton ablaze

Aftermath of the Marlinton fire that took four downtown buildings and left seven families homeless. (Photo composite by Chuck Workman)
Aftermath of the Marlinton fire that took four downtown buildings and left seven families homeless. (Photo composite by Chuck Workman)

A massive fire which began around 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning took out an entire city block in Marlinton, costing the town a significant part of its historic downtown superstructure. Gone are four formerly vibrant buildings which housed five businesses and completely gutted the three-story historic McKay building, known as The Old Bank Building, which was home to seven families that are now homeless.

The nine adults and three children were lucky to get out alive, said Red Cross spokesperson Krista Farley Raines. “They went out with the clothes on their backs!”

Firefighters from every department in Pocahontas County quickly arrived on the scene, assisted by fire squads from White Sulphur Springs, Lewisburg, Frankford, Renick, Richwood and Cowen as well as a crew of inmates from the federal prison in Alderson. Marlinton Volunteer Fire Department firefighter Curtis Helton told the press that one firefighter had suffered minor injuries during the conflagration.

By two in the afternoon on Sunday, the fire was completely contained but smoldering embers throughout the night rekindled the blaze by 11 a.m. the next day. Firefighters continued to monitor the fire in McKay building on the comer of Main Street and Third Avenue Monday evening. The third floor had caved in onto the Dirt Bean building leaving a freestanding wall. The state fire marshal on the scene recommended getting a crane and knocking it down.

The McKay building housed apartments, a Nationwide Insurance office, The Corner Salon, and WIC offices. The Dirt Bean Ohana was a popular Main Street coffee shop and restaurant, and the Hudson’s Variety Store was an arts and crafts retailer, reports The Pocahontas Times.

“It’s just unsafe,” Marlinton Mayor Joe Smith said. “We can’t open the streets or any businesses until we can get the thing secured and safe.” The Division of Highways will provide heavy equipment to knock down the remaining walls of the burnt building, he said.

The homeless families are currently being housed in a hotel in Marlinton. The Red Cross is assisting them in finding long term housing. Offers of security deposit and rent free housing for the first month have come in and a clothing drive is underway. The Pendleton Community Bank is taking monetary donations to help the families get back on their feet.

“People that know Marlinton know it’s a very small community.” Farlley Raines said. “Everybody pitches in and comes together. The response has been overwhelming.”

To donate to the families, make a check out to Marlinton Fire and send it c/o Pendleton Community Bank, P.O. Box 87, Marlinton, WV 24954. Clothing may be dropped off at the Marlinton Community Building.