PARKERSBURG - Fire ripped through and destroyed The Old Corral Bar and Grille on the edge of Parkersburg late Wednesday afternoon.
The cause was undetermined Wednesday and remains under investigation by the Wood County Fire Investigation Team. According to witness statements, the fire began in the attic area, said Tim Flinn, chief fire inspector with the Parkersburg Fire Department
All patrons inside the building made it out safely, and no injuries were reported.
Fire crews were dispatched to the fully engulfed structure, near the intersection of Camden Avenue and I-77, at around 3:45 p.m. The last truck cleared the scene just after 9:30 p.m.
Smoke from the fire could be seen from miles away. People gathered at the nearby Marathon gas station, watching firefighters battle the blaze while residents in the campground surrounding the building gathered along the edges.
Water supply was an issue as there were no hydrants on the site, said Flinn. The nearest hydrant was 1,000-1,500 feet away and fire crews had to run a long line to that hydrant to obtain water, he said.
Flinn said firefighters worked mostly on the exterior of the building in the beginning.
''They tried to do an aggressive interior attack, but there was a collaspe issue with the roof and extreme heat,'' he said.
The roof was destroyed. Once the fire was brought under control, firefighters began entering the structure along the Little Kanawha River and dealing with spots inside.
Early on, there was some question if the location was inside the Parkersburg city limits. The Parkersburg Fire Department was initially dispatched and began battling the fire.
It was determined the location was outside the city limits so Wood County volunteer fire departments were then dispatched to the scene. In addition to Parkersburg, Eastwood VFD, Mineral Wells VFD, Lubeck VFD and Camden Clark Ambulance Service responded to the fire.
Toni Higgins, who has been the manager of The Old Corral for 12 years, said she was told by employees that people were upstairs in the games room when they started smelling smoke.
''We don't allow smoking,'' she said. ''They smelled something burning and everyone went downstairs.
''Some people went back upstairs and heard cracking. They then all exited the building.''
By the time everyone got outside, the building was fully engulfed, Higgins said.
''Everyone made it out,'' she said. ''No one was hurt.''
Residents from the nearby campground said a cat might have been in the building, but no one knew if it made it out.
The establishment was expecting to have boat docks put in Friday, but Higgins doubts that will happen now. They were going to hold a benefit this weekend for an employee who had cancer. What they had put together was inside.
Higgins is hopeful the business will be rebuilt.
''I sure hope so,'' she said. ''I have spent a lot of years here. It has been a good place.''
The fire was hard on Dianna Moore of Parkersburg. Her father, Kermit "Red" Moore, built the original building when he started the campground. It was a KOA Campground for years.
''He used to serve gas and beverages to boaters along the river,'' she said. ''We had it from the '60s to the '80s.''
Moore's cousin had driven by and called her to tell her the building was on fire.
''I had to come and see it,'' she said. ''It is like losing part of your family.
''I spent so many years there working as a kid. It has been out of the family for a long time, but it is still hard.'' Phil Barr, a four-year resident of the campground that surrounds The Old Corral, said he was watching television when the power went out. He went to check the breaker and saw all the smoke.
''It went quick,'' he said. ''It was engulfed by the time the firefighters got here.
''They got here as quick as they could and did the best they could. My hats off to those guys. They did a good job.''
A powerline was on the ground. Barr said some residents still had electricity, but he wasn't worried.
''It is not going to get that cold tonight,'' he said.
The building was important to people who live at the campground. It was where everyone got caught up on the events of the day and where everyone shared what was going on in their lives.
''You have 13 families who live down here year-round, summer, fall, winter and spring,'' Barr said. ''This is our home and that is our hub right there.
''Our hub is gone. That is where I get my mail, that is where we go for comradery. It is gone. There were a lot of memories in there, a lot of memories.''
He, too, is hopeful it will be rebuilt.
''We'll get together and rebuild it,'' Barr said.