Berkeley Springs, WV Fire Destroys Block In Town, Aug 1974


Berkeley Springs, W. Va. (AP) -- Seven bodies were removed from the rubble of a fire that leveled almost a block of buildings in this small Eastern Panhandle town Sunday, state police said.
Another six persons were missing, all guests in the Washington House Hotel, troopers said.
Police and fire rescue teams planned to work through the night. Rescuers said they feared the final bodies would not be found amid the bricks, twisted steel and charred wood until Monday.
The recovered bodies were so badly charred they could not be identified, firemen said. A local dentist said if dental records have to be used to determine who died in the predawn blaze, it could take almost a week.
Five persons, all hotel guests, were reported in satisfactory condition at Morgan County War Memorial Hospital under treatment for smoke inhalation, said a hospital spokesperson. Another three guests and seven firemen were treated and released, she added.
Damage to the hotel was estimated at $400,000. Also burned were buildings housing businesses and apartments, according to Volunteer Fire Chief RONALD VAN GOSEN.
The fire started about 3 a.m. and more than 100 firemen from four states battled the blaze for five hours, he said.
The REV. CYRIL FOWLER, owner of the hotel, said, "At 10 minutes to three there wasn't any fire and at five minutes after, there was."
He said he heard someone holler "fire!" and bang on his door.
"I thought at first the noise was the ice maker," he said. "It seemed to explode." He said the fire seemed to have started in the restaurant area of the hotel.
State police said about 25 persons were registered at the hotel, a brick and wood structure more than 75 years old.

Berkeley Post Herald West Virginia 1974-08-27



Berkeley Springs, W. Va. (AP) -- Four more bodies were recovered Monday from the rubble of a smoldering downtown hotel, the victims of a fire which authorities believe claimed 13 lives.
Workmen discovered the ninth body shortly before noon in the ruins of the Washington House Hotel. Two more were found later in the day.
R. RANDALL HALL, assistant state fire marshal, said tentative identifications had been made, but added, "We won't make positive identification until we get them all out."
The fire Sunday at the 70-year-old Victorian hotel turned the city's old downtown section into an inferno with flames that reached several hundred feet into the pre-dawn sky, eyewitnesses said.
Search efforts continued Sunday night and Monday for bodies as well as for clues to what may have started the blaze. Damage to the hotel and four other buildings which burned were estimated at $1 million, according to J. RICHARD HAWVERMALE, Morgan County planner.


Hotel Fire 1974

You might want to check with the Morgan Messenger, They had a very large article on this.

News article

Hotel fire In 1974

My sisters grandmother and uncle were among the people who burnt in this fire, she was told that there was a article that mentioned at least her grandmothers name which was Bertha Clay. Her uncle was Billy Clay. Does anyone know of this article?


Hello, my name is Erin Bonham and I am the daughter of the assistant state fire marshall that worked this disaster in 1974. Just wanted to correct that his name is Robert Richard Hall. Thanks.