Fire Destroys Historic Alms House at County Farm

MAURERTOWN — Two occupants escaped a fire that destroyed a historic house at the Shenandoah County Farm, known locally as the Alms House.

Smoke alarms alerted the residents to the fire early Sunday morning, April 13, and they escaped through a first floor window. One was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries from going out the window.

Dispatchers alerted fire and rescue units to the fire at 5:42 a.m.

When firefighters arrived, they initially entered the building to search for occupants, but stopped the search when they got word that everyone was already out. By that time the fire had grown so large that firefighters could only fight the blaze from outside the building.

The building, at 192 County Farm Lane in Maurertown, was being used for transitional housing managed by Shenandoah Alliance for Shelter. It is owned by Shenandoah County, and has been since it was deeded to the county in 1798 with the purpose of serving the poor.

An assessment lists the building’s construction date as 1764, and the records from the Shenandoah County Historical Society show that there were additions in 1829 and 1850, bringing it to more than 8,000 square feet.

“It’s not just the loss of a county structure,” said Mary Beth Price, county administrator for Shenandoah County. “It’s the loss of a historic county structure.”

“It’s a huge loss,” she said.

The County Farm is in an area without fire hydrants, so fire crews had to truck water to the scene.

No cause has been determined, and the county fire marshal is investigating the fire.

Fire and rescue units responded to the fire from Toms Brook, Woodstock, Strasburg, Edinburg, Middletown, Conicville, Orkney Springs, and Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue. Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia Department of Transportation helped with traffic control.

Two die in Toms Brook house fire

55 Jessica Place, Toms Brook (1)

TOMS BROOK — During the investigation into Thursday’s fire at 55 Jessica Place in Toms Brook, investigators found two deceased people in the burned house. The medical examiner is working to identify them.

Two people resided at that address, William Dartnell, 81, and Kikuko Dischleit, 86.

Everything to this point in the investigation suggests that the house fire was an accidental fire, according to David Ferguson, fire marshal for Shenandoah County. The investigation is ongoing.

Fire units left the scene shortly before 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 20. Investigators remain on the scene.

“This is a tragic event for the entire community,” said John Collins, public information officer for Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue. “Our biggest goal is to prevent such tragedies.”

“I hope that everyone will immediately make sure they have working smoke alarms in their house,” Collins said.

55 Jessica Place, Toms Brook (2)

Fire marshal investigates fire with potential fatalities

TOMS BROOK — The Shenandoah County fire marshal is investigating a house fire that may involve fatalities.

Dispatchers alerted units to fire on Jessica Place at 5:29 a.m. on Thursday, March 20. The first unit arrived at 5:32 a.m. and reported a house with fire throughout the building.

Most of the fire was extinguished within an hour by fire and rescue units from Toms Brook, Strasburg, and Woodstock, along with Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue.

The fire heavily damaged the house, so crews had to stabilize what remained of the building before they could start investigating the blaze. Fire investigators are carefully processing the scene right now.

This is a developing incident with many unknowns, so follow Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue on social media for continued updates: and

Crews Continue to Monitor Hazmat Incident at George’s Chicken

EDINBURG — Senedo Road (Route 42) remains closed due to a hazardous materials incident at George’s Chicken at 19992 Senedo Road. Other roads that were closed earlier have reopened.

The plant also remains closed as crews monitor ammonia levels, but occupants have been allowed to return to another business and about six homes after an earlier evacuation.

The ammonia leak has been stopped, and there were no injuries as a result of the incident.

“George’s did a really good job of evacuating the plant,” said Gary Yew, chief of Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue.

Ammonia is used as part of the refrigeration process at the plant. A leak of the gas can present the risk of asphyxiation as well as being a fire hazard at some levels.

George’s Chicken has its own hazardous materials team on the scene, and Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue and Edinburg Volunteer Fire Company remain on the scene in a supporting role, along with a hazardous materials specialist from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office has assisted with evacuations and traffic control.

Conicville and Woodstock fire departments and Woodstock Rescue Squad also responded to the call, which was dispatched at 12:28 p.m. on Friday afternoon, Jan. 31.

House burns in Fort Valley

185 Plum Tree LaneA house in Fort Valley was destroyed by fire on Saturday night, Jan. 11. When the first engine from Fort Valley Volunteer Fire Department arrived at 185 Plum Tree Lane, they found fire throughout the house, which was unoccupied. There were no injuries.

Firefighters couldn’t save the rural house because of the amount of fire they encountered. Instead, they focused their efforts on protecting nearby outbuildings and woodland.

With high winds blowing embers into the forest, firefighters were glad for the recent rains in the county.

“We were fortunate that we’ve had this wet weather,” said John Collins, public information officer for Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue. “It could have been a lot worse.”

A pumper from Mount Jackson used what’s known as a dry hydrant to supply water to trucks that carried water to the rural house. A dry hydrant is a non-pressurized pipe into a lake, pond, stream, or cistern that helps provide access to water in areas that don’t have hydrants on a municipal water system.

The house was completely destroyed by the blaze, and the cause is under investigation.

Assisting Fort Valley Volunteer Fire Department were Edinburg Volunteer Fire Company, Mount Jackson Rescue and Fire, Woodstock Fire Department, Toms Brook Volunteer Fire Department, Woodstock Rescue Squad, and Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue. Warren County’s Fortsmouth and Rivermont fire departments sent tankers as well. Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office shut down Hickory Lane due to fire engines and tankers providing the water supply.