Fire at Big Meadows causes $500,000 in damage, county ambulance wrecks en route to call

Big Meadows fire
The Blackrock guest cabin and a maintenance shed were damaged by fire early Monday morning, April 18.

By Randy Arrington

LURAY, April 18 — An early morning fire Monday destroyed two “historic” buildings in the Big Meadows area of the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. In addition, a Page County EMS ambulance crashed en route to the scene. There were no injuries reported in either incident, but the blaze caused more than $500,000 in damage, claiming a maintenance building, vehicles and the Blackrock Lodge.

Fire Chief Terry A. Pettit reported that the Stanley Fire Department responded to the Big Meadows area structure fire at 2:48 a.m. on Monday by way of a park access road at the end of Tanner’s Ridge Road, “which is steep terrain all the way.” Chief Pettit stated it took units “22 minutes to reach the scene and upon arrival firefighters found Blackrock Lodge fully envolved.”

The fire was reported by a visitor to the national park in the Big Meadows camping area. Park officials confirmed that, “The Big Meadows Lodge complex has not opened for the season, so the buildings were unoccupied.”

The lodge is operated by the Park’s concessioner Delaware North. Chief Pettit estimated the damage at around $500,000 or more. It took nearly two hours to bring the fire under control and units remained on the scene until 10 a.m. on Monday. A foam unit was brought to the scene from Merck (near Elkton) to blanket the remains with foam to make sure it was out. The cause of the fire is under investigation. 

Chief Pettit also stated that not only was the 10-bedroom Blackrock Lodge on fire, but a pickup truck, maintenance building and the brush area around the lodge was ablaze as well. Park officials labeled both the lodge and the nearby maintenance building as “historic.”

Firefighters were hampered by low water pressure in the fire hydrants, and water had to be shuttled by tankers to the scene. 

Six units from the Stanley Fire Department and 21 firefighters responded to the call and were assisted by tankers from the Elkton, Luray and Shenandoah Fire Departments. An engine from Luray and crew, along with crews from the Shenandoah National Park, also assisted. Page County EMS and Stanley Rescue Squad also sent units, but no injuries were reported. The Shenandoah Fire Department also filled in at the Stanley station with an engine until units cleared up. 

Chief Pettit praised all the members who responded to the call, not only did they have the problem of multiple fires and low water pressure, but the weather was a major factor.

By morning the temperature was 26 degrees with high winds and sleet and snow falling totaling nearly four inches. Tanners Ridge recorded seven inches of snowfall in some areas. Chief Pettit stated his department also responded to a vehicle accident call at the same time of the fire, which shows the commitment the volunteer fire departments have in Page County.     

Just four minutes after responding to a call for EMS at the Big Meadows structure fire, an ambulance staffed with two Page County Fire-EMS employees wrecked after running off the road along Judy Lane Extended in Stanley at 2:55 a.m. on Monday.

Matt Cronin, Page County’s Director of Emergency Services, said that the single-vehicle accident resulted in no injuries and remains under investigation.

“The accident was investigated by the Virginia State Police. It is not clear why the ambulance initially ran off the roadway, but it appears the ambulance ran into the grass on the right side, corrected back onto the roadway, corrected again, and ended up back off the roadway, striking a fence post and small barn,” Cronin said.

The ambulance was purchased from a neighboring jurisdiction in 2018 for approximately $6,000. Page County paid to place a new engine in the ambulance, and it had been serving Page County as a frontline ambulance since late Fall of 2018.

“Page County is working with our insurance company to determine if the ambulance can be repaired or need to be replaced,” Cronin stated. “In the interim, Page County Fire-EMS will use an ambulance provided by Stanley Volunteer Rescue Squad, per established EMS franchise agreements, to continue to provide career EMS coverage in the Stanley response area, and county-wide as needed.”

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