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)

SCFR worker helps rescue family from house fire

Fire burns the house at 3911 Saint Davids Church Road in Fort Valley, minutes after the last of the three occupants were removed safely.

Fire burns the house at 3911 Saint Davids Church Road in Fort Valley, minutes after the last of the three occupants were removed safely. (Photo credit: Wendy Bulatko, Fort Valley Volunteer Fire Department)

FORT VALLEY — An employee with Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue helped rescue a family of three from a house fire on Thursday morning, Feb. 14.

A smoke alarm alerted the family to the fire, and they called 911. The call was dispatched to emergency units at 7:02 a.m.

Meanwhile, Shannon Johnson, service assistant for SCFR got a text message about the fire from a member of Fort Valley Volunteer Fire Department.

Johnson lives nearby and headed to the scene, where she found fire coming out one end of the house.

“I’ve been close to these things before, but for it to be someone you know is terrifying,” Johnson said.

Two of the residents, a husband and wife, have disabilities, and a wheelchair ramp sits at one end of the house. It was that end that was burning.

The couple’s adult daughter serves as a caregiver for them, and she was inside working to get her parents out of the house, which was filling with smoke.

“I could hear her inside hollering ‘I need help!’ ” Johnson said.

The wheelchair access was blocked by fire, so Johnson went to the other end of the house, where she had to climb a locked gate to get onto a raised deck.

The father was on the deck, but the daughter was struggling to get her mother out of bed.

Johnson entered the house and helped get the mother into a wheelchair and onto the deck.

“The smoke was really thick,” Johnson said. “It was about halfway down from the ceiling.”

By that point, Eugene and Wendy Bulatko of Fort Valley Volunteer Fire Department arrived, along with a utility crew. Together, they opened the gate and got the family off the deck to safety.

The three residents were taken to Shenandoah Memorial Hospital for observation. The Red Cross is assisting them after the fire.

While the cause of the fire is under investigation, it’s believed to be of accidental origin, related to the wood stove being used in the house.

For the second time in four months, officials credit a smoke alarm with helping save lives in a Shenandoah County house fire.

“If you don’t have working smoke alarms in your house, we urge you to contact us, and we’ll help you get some,” said John Collins, public information officer for SCFR.

Contact the SCFR office at (540) 459-6167 for a smoke alarm.

Units responded to the fire from Fort Valley Volunteer Fire Department, Edinburg Volunteer Fire Company, Mount Jackson Rescue and Fire, Strasburg Fire Department, Strasburg Rescue Squad, and Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue. Due to the report of entrapped occupants, units were also dispatched from North Warren Volunteer Fire Company and Rivermont Volunteer Fire Company in Warren County. Those units were canceled before they could reach the scene.

8 escape house fire due to smoke alarm; 3 injured

BASYE — A smoke alarm alerted occupants to a house fire at 8312 Supinlick Ridge Road, and all eight of them escaped early Sunday morning, Nov. 4. Three of those people were taken to the hospital.

The smoke alarm, in the stairwell between the basement and first floor, alerted some occupants to the fire, and they were able to escape the house while a neighbor was helping alert others in a loft above the first floor.

The neighbor helped raise an extension ladder that had been stored outside the house, and the loft occupants escaped down the ladder.

“They were very lucky,” said David Ferguson, fire marshal for Shenandoah County.

When firefighters arrived, they found the entire house in flames, getting ready to spread to two vehicles in the driveway and to a neighboring house. Firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading, but the vehicles and the neighboring house suffered damage from the heat.

Officials at the scene reiterated the importance of having working smoke detectors.

“We’ve been reminding people to change the batteries in their smoke detectors when they change their clocks for the time change,” said John Collins, public infomation officer for Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue. “This morning we had an example of why that’s so important. Without a smoke alarm, this could have been a tragic fire.”

“We want people to have smoke alarms on every level of their house, in the sleeping areas and in common areas like the stairwell and hallways,” Collins said, adding that anyone needing a smoke alarm or having questions about smoke alarms can contact Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue at (540) 459-6167.

Firefighters and rescue workers responded to the scene from Orkney Springs Fire and Rescue, Conicville Volunteer Fire Department, Mount Jackson Rescue and Fire Company, New Market Volunteer Fire and Rescue, Edinburg Volunteer Fire Company, Woodstock Volunteer Rescue Squad, and Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue. Deputies from the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office helped with traffic control.

The fire was dispatched at 3:27 a.m. on Sunday. Crews were on the scene for about 5 hours.