2011-01-13 / Front Page

House Fire Displaces Families

Blaze destroys Warfordsburg area farmhouse
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

Family, friends, coworkers and area churches have rallied in support of an extended Warfordsburg area family who were displaced by a fire that destroyed their 1930s two-story farmhouse.

Within two days of the blaze erupting at 340 Cove View Lane just off Bethel Church Road last Tuesday evening, a fund was established through Tower Bank to accept monetary donations on behalf of the fire victims, the Mark and Tammy Palmer family and George and Wilma Valentine. In addition to donations being accepted at all Tower Bank locations, charitable donations are also being taken at the Warfordsburg Presbyterian Church located at 12941 Buck Valley Road in support of the two couples.

Mark Palmer told the “News” the outreach from the overall community has been tremendous and has put an end to their need for clothing. However, items such as gift cards, toiletries, towels and linens are still very much appreciated. Given the fact the Palmers and their daughter, Kristin, have temporarily moved in with Mark’s uncle Lynn at the former Ed and Helen Palmer home, space for items is very limited. The couple’s son, Brian, recently returned home after serving the U.S. military in Iraq and is now attending college at Shippensburg University.

Meanwhile, Mark’s stepfather and mother, George and Wilma Valentine, have taken up residence nearby with family members.

Mark and Tammy Palmer were responsible for discovering the January 4 blaze as they were the only individuals inside the home referred to as the “Palmer Homestead.” According to Mark, his wife had gone to bed, and he was preparing to join her when she smelled smoke and heard their alarm system going off.

Mark stated they managed to get downstairs and outside very quickly in spite of the thick, smoke-filled air and lack of visibility. As a result of the smoke, the home security system set notice of an automatic alarm that prompted the dispatch of firefighters from the Needmore Volunteer Fire Co. (NVFC).

NVFC firefighter Bob Fleegle reported in the moments following the dispatch, he received a personal telephone call from Mark Palmer, who said the home built by his grandfather in the late 1930s was filling with smoke. As Fleegle made his way to the fire scene in Bethel Township, a second telephone call reporting heavier smoke required the dispatch to be upgraded to a working structure fire and eventually a second alarm.

Assistance from fire companies around the area was needed, bringing firefighters, engines and tankers from McConnellsburg, Hustontown, Hancock, Berkeley Springs, Little Orleans, Clear Spring, MMP&W and Breezewood. Everett and St. Thomas transferred to local stations and remained on standby.

Fleegle stated no flames were evident during his arrival, but heavy smoke rolled out of the home. The fire eventually blew out the back and out the home’s doors. With interior stairs beginning to lose their structural integrity, firefighting crews moved to fight the blaze from the outside and took about 45 minutes to get it under control.

Fleegle noted it took an extensive overhaul to get the fire extinguished. No firefighters were injured or harmed battling the fire, but Tammy Palmer did suffer smoke inhalation and was taken to War Memorial Hospital in Morgan County, W.Va., for treatment. Mark Palmer sought treatment after the fire.

In spite of the exterior walls of the home still standing, the basement of the residence was completly gutted, said Fleegle. Furthermore, the first floor was “pretty well gutted,” and the second floor mainly suffered smoke and heat damage. The fire rekindled on Wednesday, requiring firefighters to return to the scene.

Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal M.B. Gordon of the Mc- Connellsburg station has wrapped up his investigation into the blaze. Gordon said the fire has been ruled a chimney fire that cracked a flue on an internal chimney and spread into the walls of the residence. He has valued the loss at $200,000 for the home and an additional $100,000 for the contents.

In addition to losing their personal belongings and their historic home, the Palmer’s cat, Charlie, also perished in the blaze as well as the Valentine’s dog. An additional small black and white dog remains missing and is thought to have run away.

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