LIVE SHOT | PKG: $4 million in damages estimated from Harpers Ferry Fire
HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. -- First the damage was over $1 million, then over $2 million, but now, property owners in Old Harpers Ferry say the fire that broke out early Thursday morning has cost them about $4 million in property and inventory damage.
Nine businesses were burned in the fire: Data Direct, La Niche Boutique, Private Quinn’s Pub, Scoop’s Ice Cream, Sophie & Bailey’s, Tenfold Fair Trade Collection, The Village Shop at Harpers Ferry, The Vintage Lady, and Upstairs Downstairs Sandwich Shop.
Out of the nine businesses damaged in the fire, eight of them are completely inoperable. (Scoop’s Ice Cream is still open for business).
Both property and business owners are trying to figure out how they are going to pay for it all.
"It was devastating because we had just opened last September,” said Kathryn Miller, owner of Sophie & Bailey’s. “As a new business, we were really looking forward to the summer, fall and ‘Old time Christmas’ here in Harpers Ferry."
Summertime kicks off Harpers Ferry’s tourism season, which is a major economic contributor to the area.
Miller was one of two that didn't have any fire insurance. Additionally, many businesses owners affected by the fire say they were significantly under-insured.
"If there is one thing that I can get across to other business owners, its make sure you grow your insurance policy with your inventory or with your growth,” said Martha Elhman, owner of Tenfold Fair Trade Collection. “I did not [grow my policy], so I have a significant shortfall."
Elhman estimates that her insurance is only covering 20 percent of her inventory.
As for the businesses not burned in the fire, owners say they are also experiencing a loss in revenue.
"My heart just breaks for them,” said owner of La Niche Boutique, Veronica Burnside. “I just talked to a store [owner] up the street, and he said that they didn't have any business during the weekend.
“I just wish the town would just quickly do something."
Burnside lost all of her inventory in the fire. She told WHAG that she was under-insured.
“I would encourage people who love Harpers Ferry, or who have been curious about Harpers Ferry and have never made the trek down, there are businesses open."
Despite their circumstances, many business owners remain positive.
Miller says she lost almost everything, and salvaged her business's first dollar from the rubble.
"I knew where it had been framed on the wall, so I just went in and picked up a lot of debris and soot and wet things, and there it was,” she said, smiling. “I hope it's a sign for future growth."
Town officials met with business owners on Monday to see how they can start helping with the recovery process, but many questions are still left unanswered.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
We previously reported that fire personnel did not suspect arson, however the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's office told WHAG they are not ruling out any scenarios out until their lab results are returned.
According to Assistant State Fire Marshal Jason Baltic, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office brought in their nearby K-9 unit to sniff for any accelerants shortly after the investigation began.
If you do not have time to visit Harpers Ferry, but still want to help local businesses, fundraising links are included below:
Renew Harpers Ferry Foundation: http://www.gofundme.com/renewharpersferry
La Niche Boutique: http://www.gofundme.com/2t6xb8g8g2ts
Sophie & Bailey’s: http://www.gofundme.com/8zg89rxvg8
Tenfold Fair Trade Collection: https://www.razoo.com/br/causes/Tenfold-Fair-Trade-Collection-Fire-Restoration-Fund
Upstairs Downstairs Sandwich Shop: http://www.gofundme.com/8g3u2s8jg