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Community Rallies To Support Business

The St. Marys Oracle of St Marys, West Virginia

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Fire departments from St. Marys, Belmont, Newport, Sistersville, and Cytec responded to an early afternoon fire Saturday at the Galaxy Food Center, 1408 N. Pleasants Hwy., St. Marys.

Dark smoke billowed from the burning structure and could be seen from miles around. The fire crews quickly secured the parking lot in front of the store and began to fight the b|aze.

According to Casey Edwards, the store's owner, all of his employees and customers were able to exit the store with no injuries reported.

"Some of the employees from the meat department and the produce department had already left," Edwards explained. "There were about eight employees in the store when the fire started.

Employee Allen Lamp was instrumental in getting everyone to safety, reports say. He ran through the store making sure all employees and shoppers made it out safe.

Local law enforcement including the Pleasants County Sherriff's Department, St. Marys Police, and the West Virginia State Police were at the scene and were able to keep the southbound lane of State Route 2 open. The northbound lane had fire hoses stretching several hundred yards to fire hydrants south of the store to provide additional water to fight the blaze.

Cytec's Willow Island plant sent a ladder truck with an elevated nozzle to spray the roof and it was used in the rear of the store where the roof was burning and part of a metal awning had collapsed.

In the front of the store, firemen poured water into the front entrance of the building, and shortly after another fireman began breaking out the large plate glass windows in the front of the store so more water could be pumped into the building.

The influx of oxygen, when the windows were broken, temporarily caused the fire to surge up again, but once the water hoses were turned in that direction the flames were beat back.

Popping sounds could be heard coming from inside the grocery as items on the store's shelves were consumed by the inferno.

St. Marys Fire Chief Danny DeMoss said that once on the scene, a headcount of all the employees showed everyone was safely out of the structure. At that point, he said the main concern was keeping the blaze contained to just the Galaxy building and not allowing it to spread to the adjoining properties of Rite Aid and the Sandpiper Village apartments.

"You don't risk your men's lives sending them in there if there are no people in the store. When we knew no lives were at risk, and everyone was safely out of the building, we wanted to contain the fire to that building and not let it spread to adjacent buildings," DeMoss stated.

"Our biggest problem with this fire was that the building was all metal. It was like an oven inside," the chief explained. "Several outside access doors in the back were blocked by products and other stuff, so we had to cut holes in the building and break out the glass to get access so we could fight the fire."

DeMoss said the worst damage was in a compressor room near the back of the store. "When I arrived smoke was already billowing out from under the eaves. The compressor room was fully engulfed. Our first attack on the fire was in that area in the back of the store. The fire moved from there towards the front," he stated.

Edwards confirmed on Sunday the fire marshal believed the fire originated in the compressor room.

"The fire marshal said he was sure the fire started in that area, but he may never be able to pinpoint the exact cause because of the extensive damage," Edwards said.

Bill Edwards, who built the store in 1982 as the AG store, said he walked through the building on Sunday and the devastation was indescribable.

"It looked like what you witnessed after 9-11. The computers were melted down to nothing more than a pile of plastic," he stated.

Bill Edwards also said the damage in the compressor room was the most severe.

"The employees don't go in there unless we are having a problem with food going soft in one of the freezers, so the fire may have been burning for a while before it was detected," he said.

Bill Edwards said the store changed over to Shop N Save in 1989 and then around 2009 became the Galaxy Food Center.

"We had been talking about remodeling and expanding the store," the elder Edwards stated.

When asked if he planned to rebuild the store, Casey answered with an emphatic yes!

"Ironically, my dad built the store 33 years ago and now I get to build mine," he stated.

Chief DeMoss said that once the SMVFD arrived at the scene around 2-2:30 p.m. and they were operational, he called for outside resources.

"We were a little shorthanded and with the intense heat we needed more men so we could recycle men to give those fighting the fire a break. We did not have any injuries to any of the firemen, but we did have a few who were treated for heat exhaustion," he reported.

According to the chief, units remained until about 1:30 a.m. almost 12 hours from when the fire began.

"I want to thank Fox's Pizza and Domino's in particular for bringing food. I know many other businesses and individuals also brought water and other things, and I don't want to miss thanking anyone, so I will just say thank you to all those who helped us out."

Bill Edwards said the outpouring from the community was stunning.

Casey Edwards said he wanted the whole town to know how proud he was to live here.

"It was so touching; I don't even have the words to express it. I'm proud to call St. Marys home."

Loaves of bread still on the racks but seen through the busted exterior wall of the burned out store.

Volunteer fire departments from St. Marys, Belmont, Newport, Sistersville and Cytec responded to the scene Saturday afternoon "berWeBn 2-2:30 p.m.

Copyright 2015 The St. Marys Oracle, St Marys, West Virginia. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: April 22, 2015

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