Newsoms – Firefighters were called to battle a blaze in their own building after a fire broke out Sunday morning. The Branchville Volunteer Fire Department sustained major smoke damage and a fire utility truck was destroyed in the weekend fire. No one was in the building at the time, according to reports.
The town hall, also housed in the building, remained unscathed by the quickly spreading fire, according to Fire Chief Justin Overby. It took volunteer firefighters about 40 minutes to put out the blaze. The fire was called in at 9:12 a.m. after someone spotted smoke behind the building on Route 186. The assistant fire chief was one of the first people at the scene.
“When the assistant fire chief got there, he saw the fire was inside the firehouse,” Overby said.
Officials said there are two theories on how the fire started, but the fire chief is not discussing those until he receives a Virginia State Police investigation report. He did not indicate when the report would be finalized. However, the chief said the blaze appears to be accidental. A Virginia State Police investigator was at the fire station Sunday to initiate his probe into the cause of the fire.
Officials said they believe the fire sparked in the rear of the utility truck parked at the station. The truck contained garbage from a Saturday barbecue and stew fundraiser at the station. Officials said the dump was closed, so workers left the garbage in the truck.
The barbecue was well attended by those living in the local community. The event was successful in raising money, but it is not known if any of the money will now be needed to rebuild the volunteer fire station.
While this is the only building that houses the Branchville volunteer department, it doesn’t appear the blaze will stop any services provided by firefighters. Fire trucks were not damaged, according to reports.
Other volunteer fire services in Southhampton County are not affected. There are several volunteer fire departments in the area including the Boykins Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, the Ivor Volunteer Fire Department, Hercules Inc., Courtland Volunteer Fire Department, Sedley Volunteer Fire Department, and Capron Fire and First Aid Squad.
The fire will also not affect the next Branchville Council meeting, but members are likely to discuss the incident if the investigation report is ready before the meeting set for Oct. 9. The council could also discuss the city’s insurance on the building and covering the volunteer fire department and how the incident could affect its insurance rating.
The fire serves as a reminder to observe safety rules during cookouts and other early fall activities. Those include making sure all ashes are completely extinguished and watered down before putting them in trash bags and putting things like used heated fuel containers in metal buckets until they are completely cooled. It is also best not to combine things like ash and fuel heat containers with other forms of garbage and keep all trash containers outside and away from homes, buildings and all other structures.
There are typically few fires in the Branchville area. Most are grass or woods fires and are quickly put out. One of the biggest fires occurred in 2017 when the Rising Star Baptist Church was destroyed in a blaze. The church was 150-years old.
Branchville is a small town in Southhampton County, Va. The last census indicated there were only 123 residents living there so it is a close knit community. The hamlet only covers less than a half a square mile and contains around 50 residences.
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