KILMARNOCK, Va. (WRIC) — The local fire chief, business owners and residents reflected today on the aftermath of Kilmarnock’s devastating, early morning fire.
One life was lost during the tragedy.
Roy Hall, Fire Chief for the Kilmarnock Volunteer Fire Department, told 8News, in detail, about the response to the fire, which severely damaged seven apartments and four businesses. The fire tore through the buildings, despite Hall’s team making a rapid response– they were on scene within three minutes of the 3:41 a.m. emergency call.
Two of those apartments were fully engulfed in flames before the fire spread to the other five, Hall said.
This isn’t the town of Kilmarnock’s first experience with a tragic fire.
“Unfortunately, it does happen in this small town. We’ve had it happen before, ” Chief Hall told 8News. “Our town has burnt twice, the whole town, so it can happen. And, unfortunately with the wind blowing this morning, it… it burnt the block.”
Jay Wolfson, owner of NN Burger, one of the businesses damaged by the fire, reflected on how the town embraced him and his business, as well as his hopes moving forward from this tragedy.
“Since December of 2013, the town’s been incredible and just embraced us from the beginning,” Wolfson said.
“This has been a real… real devastation and tragedy for not just myself. The other business is local next to us and, you know, my employees, you know, this is going to be a tough one for them,” he added.
Wolfson had not yet been able to enter his business at the time he spoke to 8News, but he could see the horrendous damage from outside.
“Obviously, the roof is gone and fallen in, and, you know, a lot of water and smoke damage. It’s… it’s kind of sad and surreal at the same time,” Wolfson said, describing the damage.
However, Wolfson said that the close-knit Kilmarnock community has his back, “Everybody kind of reaches out and wants to help, and I can’t… Couple dozen people have already asked to help me. So it’s… it’s… it’s awesome.”
Kilmarnock residents mourned their neighbors’ lost homes and jobs. 8News spoke with Gary Jenkins, who has lived in the town almost his entire life.
Jenkins noticed the firetrucks going by around 4 a.m. but thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until later in the morning that he and his sister learned of the fire.
“I feel bad for the businesses. There are residents in the apartments there, people that live in the apartments above… And now they’re without a home and, obviously, there’s going to be a lot of people that are going to be unemployed,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins, like Chief Hall, noted the history of large fires in this small Virginia town, “You know, Kilmarnock has had three major fires. If you go back and look, one was 1909, destroyed a number of businesses; 1915; 1952, on Main Street.”
“So, you know, this is… whenever we have a major fire, it’s devastating,” Jenkins added. “I could just imagine if my home… not being able to go back and you lose your belongings. So it’s very… Yeah, it’s very disturbing.”
Irvington Road, where the fire took place, has reopened to traffic, but it will be some time before the community recovers and the local sheriff’s office finishes their investigation into what caused this tragedy.
However, the community remains in strong spirits, with Wolfson telling 8News, “We’ll build it better, stronger, and it’ll be a great place- more vibrant than it’s ever been. That’s what we do here, is make things better.”