STRASBURG — A Monday afternoon fire that destroyed a historic town structure and displaced a young family started in the attic, said Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Fire Marshal David Ferguson.
“All the points lead to an accidental fire,” he said Tuesday. “[It] started in the attic area near the rear of the building. From there it spread to the rest of the [structure].”
Ferguson suggested smoke detectors as the best way residents can help prevent being harmed in fires.
The Nash garage building, 144 Front Royal Road, had smoke detectors, he said, but the only occupant at the time of the fire was in an area that did not have a smoke detector. The fire was reported to 911 dispatch by a bystander outside the building, Police Chief Wayne Sager told the Northern Virginia Daily on Monday. No one was injured in the fire.
Dane Hooser, who lost his apartment and belongings in the fire, said the situation could have been worse.
Hooser, 25, recalled a series of circumstances that removed him and his dog from the apartment at the site of the old Nash garage on a day when both normally would have been at home, possibly asleep.
“I’m off every Monday,” said Hooser, a dental hygienist. That morning he had dropped off his dog Rae, a Yorkie-Chihuahua mix, at a veterinarian’s office to have her teeth cleaned.
Hooser tidied up his apartment in a gesture for his roommate, Morgan Stilson, 19, who also wasn’t at home. Then he left for a lunch meeting, where he was when his cellphone rang. The caller told him his apartment was on fire.
Hooser and Stilson, who are expecting a baby early next year, lost almost everything, he said.
Only the clothes they were wearing and a handful of other items, including a Teddy bear from Hooser’s childhood, a safe with some money in it, and ultrasound photos from Stilson’s doctor, remained.
Having some of their keepsakes and valuables is one less thing to worry about as he and Stilson rebuild their household, he said.
“For sure we’re going to need baby wipes and diapers,” said Hooser, who added they have a baby shower planned for December.
“It could have been a lot worse. ... We’re just thankful no one got hurt.”
While looking at apartments on Tuesday, he said the community has come out in force to support him and Stilson, offering them everything from clothing and other items to temporary housing solutions.
“[It’s] definitely a humbling experience,” he said.
Lydia’s Clothes Closet on King Street often helps area residents who have fallen on hard times.
Manager Kath Stanley said the nonprofit thrift shop, which also sells clothes, benefits from a collection of volunteers and area organizations like Compassion Cupboard Inc. and Family Promise of Shenandoah County that donate clothing and other items to help the community.
“[It’s] a very, very generous community,” Murphy said.
On Tuesday, she was expecting Hooser and Stilson to stop by for some items and said that the store is pretty well stocked at the moment for those who need it. Clothing sizes range from infant to adult, and Murphy said only men’s jeans are in short supply.
Averi Starkey, 13, who lives across the street from the old Nash garage, said she was at school when the fire started but later watched as firefighters continued to battle the fire after she returned home.
“We just sat in the yard and watched it,” she said on Tuesday as her grandfather, Ricci Troxel, who owns the Nash garage building, talked with insurance adjusters.
Averi recalled spending time at the building that housed the family’s antique cars and memorabilia.
“People loved it,” she said.
“It was a whole family thing,” she said. “There’s just a lot of memories.”