Fire destroys Front Royal business

Fire destroyed this old stone building, a wood storage building next to it and damaged two other buildings on Saturday night. Linda O'Dell Ash/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — Firefighters responding to a 911 call late Saturday evening discovered flames shooting from the Strong Oaks Workshop at 1868 N. Royal Ave.

The fire destroyed the old stone building along with a wood storage building next to it. It also damaged two auxiliary buildings and seven vehicles on the property, according to Warren County Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico.

The 911 call came in to Warren County dispatchers around 10:30 p.m. Saturday. Upon arrival, Warren County Fire and Rescue crews found a “rapidly progressing fire,” Maiatico said Sunday from the scene as he prepared to close down work there 14 hours after the first trucks had arrived.

The building, he said, housed a manufacturing plant that “had a lot of combustibles – a lot of timber, finishing products, varnish.”

Cause of the fire has not been determined, and no injuries were reported, Maiatico said. The building, he said, was occupied, but added they are not releasing that information at this time since the investigation is continuing.

A firefighter uses a deck gun to throw water on burning structures during Saturday night's fire in Front Royal. This photo was taken from the 18th Street parking lot of the Front Royal Baptist Temple. Photo courtesy of Tommy Derflinger

While battling the blaze with water from hydrants and the Shenandoah River from a hill above the structure as well as in front of it, trains were traveling on the tracks located nearby. Maiatico said firefighters had to pull back from fighting the blaze due to safety reasons when a train went by. He said they contacted Norfolk Southern and praised the railway for assisting them by stopping trains down the line.

Tom Sayre, a member of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, was at the fire scene late Sunday morning. He said he lives nearby and saw flames from his home’s window after learning about the fire on Facebook late Saturday night. The building that was destroyed, he said, housed a thriving woodworking business owned by Mike Schmiedicke.

“He’s the greatest guy,” Sayre said, noting that the business, which made furniture as well as caskets, had several employees.

“A great guy, he really is and the people who work, employed there, I know most of them and they are the salt of the Earth kind of people. Wonderful people,” Sayre said.

Maiatico described the large stone building that was destroyed as a “very old, magnificent building” and said he hates to see any building – a business or a home – destroyed by fire. He reminded residents and business owners to check their fire alarms.

Train tracks run close to the buildings where firefighters battled a large fire on Saturday night. Trains traveled past the fire and at one point Saturday night Norfolk Southern stopped them down the line. Linda O'Dell Ash/Daily

The three-alarm blaze was battled by fire companies from around the region. Also responding to the scene, Maiatico said, were members of the Front Royal Police Department and personnel from the fire marshal offices from Fauquier and Frederick counties.

Contact Editor Linda O’Dell Ash at 540-465-5137 ext. 163, or lash@nvdaily.com