KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va. (WDVM) — The West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating an arson on Charles Town Road that resulted in the death of a West Virginia Air National Guard Airman. Three more firefighters were injured in the incident and were transported to a nearby hospital for treatment.
The fire broke out around 1:56 a.m. on Sunday, December 27 in the 3800 block of Charles Town Road. According to a press release, the West Virginia Air National Guard was called in to assist with the fire department at 2:02 a.m. and additional medics were requested about 30 minutes later.
Chad Shifflett, Public Information Officer for the Berkeley County Council detailed that a mayday call was sent out shortly after crews arrived.
“At approximately 2:34 AM, a mayday was issued and additional medic units were requested,” Shifflett stated. “Four firefighters have since been transported to Berkeley Medical Center for treatment… One of them being the airman from the 167th.”
Residents say that the explosion shook their homes and woke many of them up. Amber Stokes and her husband were woken up by the blast.
“We heard an explosion that woke us up last night and we looked out the kitchen window and we could see the fire,” Stokes explained.
Stokes also stated that she notified the owners of the barn who live just down the road. Sandy Shade and her husband were asleep when the explosion rocked the small town. She was in shock when state troopers knocked on her door to tell her what happened. Neither her or her husband could think of anything in the barn that could start such a fire.
“I can’t believe it happened. I have no idea unless it was some dry lumber or something spontaneous combustion of some sort,” Shade explained. “What upset me was the fire workers. One died and the other ones got hurt.”
Both Shade and her husband were deeply upset over the death of the airman as well as the injuries of the other fire fighters.
"It didn't matter about the barn. it didn't matter. it's just the lives, people's lives involved especially a firefighter. that's what really we're upset about."
State Fire Marshal’s Office investigators said the fire is connected to another arson that happened 30 minutes prior just 3.1 miles down the road in Jefferson County. Both fires were set to vacant structures.
The airman who died in the fire was assigned to the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, according to a statement from the National Guard. Their identity is not being released at this time, as officials work to notify the next of kin.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office and West Virginia State Police continue to investigate.
Anyone with any information is urged to call the West Virginia Arson Hotline at (800) 233-3473. There is a reward of up to $5,000 for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
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