Marlinton Town Council held a special meeting Thursday evening to provide and exchange information regarding Sunday’s fire, which destroyed three Main Street buildings.
Mayor Joe Smith reported that 12 residents and eight businesses were displaced as a result of the fire.
GoMarlinton member and Family Refuge Center volunteer Trish McNaull said all but two displaced residents had located new housing and had obtained most necessary household goods.
Smith said he was working with the three owners of the destroyed buildings to ensure a quick clean-up.
“The removal of the debris, as we see it, is the responsibility of the owners through the insurance companies,” he said. “I’ve asked both companies to let the town take the lead on that, because I don’t want to see some of it tore down, some of it left, some of it tore down. I want it, myself, would like to see it completely cleaned in one sweep.”
The mayor said the Department of Environmental Protection will test the debris for asbestos.
“If it has asbestos in it, or residue from asbestos, then we’re into another game because our landfill will not take it,” he said. “If that’s the case – we don’t know that – it will have to go to a certified hazardous waste landfill.”
Only two landfills in West Virginia, located in Monroe and Harrison counties, will accept asbestos. The mayor said clean-up will take longer if the debris must be taken out-of-county.
“When you look at that and look at the distance, you’re not looking at moving a whole lot of debris a day, unless we can really get a fleet of trucks in here to do it,” he said.
State and federal representatives are aware of the town’s calamity.
“Our representatives on a government level, both federal and state, is very much aware of what has happened to our small community,” the mayor said. “A meeting is in the process of being scheduled with the governor to see what aid we can generate to help these people.”
The mayor expressed gratitude to the sheriff’s deputy who reported the fire to 911.
“We owe a great thank you to patrolman [Brian] Shinaberry, who initially called the thing in, it is my understanding,” said Smith. “If he hadn’t have been patrolling and saw what he saw, it could have been a different situation.”
Smith said firefighters were forced to run hoses a long distance to deep pools in the shallow Greenbrier River to pump water. He said an excavation would be made near the Route 39 bridge to make it easier for firefighters in the future.
“We’re going to go to the river, down near the bridge,” he said. “DNR’s not going to like us, but we’re going to dig a sump and make a place where we can draft water from.”
Fire was burning in the second floor of the Hudson Building when Marlinton VFD Assistant Fire Chief Herb Barlow first entered the structure in the thrift shop portion of the building.
“When I made my initial entry, it was through the front of the thrift shop,” said Barlow. “You could touch the glass – the glass was hot. There was no fire in the thrift shop at that point – the bulk of the fire was on the second floor of the Hudson Building.”
Barlow said multiple roofs hampered efforts to contain the fire.
“Our biggest problem was the amount of roofs that were on that building,” he said. “We encountered at least three different roofs we had to try to get through.”
Extensive remodeling created routes for the fire to spread.
“Those buildings have been remodeled and remodeled and remodeled,” Barlow said. “No one ever checks it, so there’s spaces that the fire found, that we couldn’t see, even with our thermal imagers.”
The mayor, a former fireman, said firefighters could not have done more to stop the fire from spreading.
“I was on the scene from a little bit before 4 a.m., right on through until it was basically over with,” he said. “Our fire department is a top-notch fire department. I watched what they did. I saw what happened, from experience, and they did absolutely nothing wrong. They did everything they possibly could do.”
Barlow recommended that council update their fire code to require businesses to install smoke detectors that dial 911 when activated. In addition, Barlow said current fire safety laws need to be enforced.
“I’m not trying to run any businesses off or anything like that, but we need to enforce these codes before someone gets hurt or killed,” he said. “We’ve got a whole book of codes. Let’s enforce them. If we would do what we’ve already established, I think it would help a lot.”
Council discussed its powers to enforce fire safety measures at businesses and rental properties. Recorder Robin Mutscheller said she would check with the State Fire Marshal’s Office to clarify the town’s authority with respect to rental properties.