MARLINTON, W.Va. -- Roger Cain's mementos from the past 68 years went up in smoke early Sunday morning as a fire blazed through four structures in downtown Marlinton.
Those buildings were home to four small businesses, two state offices and an apartment complex that housed 13 residents. The fire has drastically affected the small rural community and has left many residents wanting answers as to how the fire started.
"We were awoken at 2:30 a.m.," Cain said. "Me and my son lived on the third floor, and we were able to take a few items. I packed up a few changes of clothes, my camera and medication. We also loaded our cat into a carrier and put it in my car."
Cain said he watched as the firemen tackled the blaze, which was believed to have originated in Hudson's Variety Store.
Cain said Monday he and others have received plenty of support.
"People have reached out to us with an overwhelming amount of support," he said, noting that the most important thing was that everyone inside the buildings got out safely.
A strong southerly wind hampered firefighters' efforts; as the wind picked up, the flames intensified, moving across the buildings' connected rooftops.
First Lt. J.P. Duncan of the Marlinton Volunteer Fire Department said the fire scorched Hudson's Variety Store, an arts and crafts retailer, and then moved through Dirt Bean Ohana, a coffee and bike shop. Despite their best efforts, it then spread to the apartments in the McK Building.
"It just kept going," Duncan said. "We tried to save the apartments but were unsuccessful. These are old buildings, and several roofs have been added to them over the years so it was difficult, in a sense, to get water to the flames.
"Once flames were seen within the McK Building, we knew it was going to be a long day."
The building was home to 13 residential tenants, a state Division of Forestry office, the Corner Salon, the Women, Infants and Children office and the Bialek Nationwide Insurance Agency. The fire also spread to an unoccupied structure behind the McK Building.
The first alarm sounded at 2:30 a.m. Sunday. Firefighters from Greenbrier, Randolph, Nicholas, Webster and Monroe counties as well as Bath County, Va., also responded. All departments within Pocahontas County assisted with the fire.
"The department from Monroe County was the fire department at the women's prison in Alderson. All departments, though, did an incredible job, and we sincerely thank them," Marlinton Mayor Joe Smith said.
"This is absolutely devastating. This fire has displaced many people and, most likely, there will be a significant impact from an economic standpoint. We obviously won't be able to see the economic effects for several months, but we have lost some of our tax base."
The fire was extinguished about 2 p.m. Sunday but rekindled about 11 a.m. Monday. Departments from within Pocahontas County were able to combat those flames. As of Monday evening, there were still flames inside but firefighters were allowing for a controlled burn, saying the structures were a total loss.
"I'm wore out and I'm sure all these guys are," Duncan said. "I responded to the scene at 2:30 Sunday morning and we fought it for 18 straight hours. I didn't get home till 7 p.m. last night. We had someone monitor the scene throughout the night to make sure the fire didn't start again."
At the height of the fire, there were seven tanker trucks filling three 3,500-gallon reservoirs with water from the Greenbrier River. The trucks had to continuously keep the reservoirs stocked because the fire trucks pumped 1,200 gallons a minute.
Also, the aerial tower used to flow water above the fire was supplied from hoses directly pulling water from the Greenbrier.
Assistant State Fire Marshall Tim Mouse arrived Sunday afternoon to begin an investigation. State Delegate Bill Hartman and Lynn Phillips, representing Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office, were briefed on the fire.
Insurance companies will work out when the buildings should be destroyed.
Gail Hyer is a Marlinton resident and secretary of Go Marlinton, a civic organization that is composed of citizens, business owners and professionals. The group met at the Snowshoe Career Center downtown Monday evening to identify victims' needs.
"Obviously, they need housing, they need identification, they need clothes, they need medication," Hyer said.
Several property owners were offering rental spaces to the victims with no deposit needed, and the first month's rent paid.
The victims are staying at the Marlinton Motor Inn, where they will remain until Wednesday.
Since Sunday, the American Red Cross has been set up at the town's 911 center, and a clothing drop-off location was established at the municipal building above the fire department.
This isn't the first time an early morning fire has devastated the small downtown of this Pocahontas County seat.
Monetary donations in the form of checks or money orders can be made to Pendleton Community Bank, P. O. Box 87, Marlinton WV 24954. Checks should be made out to Marlinton Fire. Go Marlinton leaders say the money is for immediate needs of the affected families and will be dispersed as it comes in based on need.
More information, including specific clothing sizes and other items needed by victims, is being posted to the Go Marlinton Facebook page at www.facebook.com/gomarlinton<;;f"DMCrown">.