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Matoaka works to come back after fire

Bluefield Daily Telegraph photo by Bill Archer The ruins of Barger Street buildings that were destroyed by fire on Friday continued to smolder in a heavy downpour Saturday afternoon as the town struggles to rebound after the fire.
Bluefield Daily Telegraph photo by Bill Archer
The ruins of Barger Street buildings that were destroyed by fire on Friday continued to smolder in a heavy downpour Saturday afternoon as the town struggles to rebound after the fire.

LASHMEET, W.Va. — Four women — Angie Lusk, Tammy Norris, Ann Bennett and Danielle Pettrey — set up tables in front of the Lashmeet Market Saturday morning and started selling hot-dogs with all the toppings to people traveling up and down Route 10.

The ladies made sign that read simply: “Community of Matoaka Silent Angels” and hung it from their table. Sales were brisk all day Saturday as people stopped to buy hot-dogs. Several left tips. The ladies knew every person in the three families who lost their homes Friday in the Barger Street fire in Matoaka. Every penny they brought in on Saturday went to those families.

“We’re just ladies in the town who volunteer to get together and help people,” Angie Lusk said. “We make free Thanksgiving dinners for seniors every year, have a free Halloween dinner for everyone and buy back to school supplies for kids. This year, we gave school supplies to 42 kids.”

“Today, we’re just helping the families that lost their homes in the fire,” Tammy Norris said. “There are four of us here today. Two other ladies — Cassie Wall and Linda Daniels couldn’t make it today, but we know they’re thinking about us.”

“We do this for the whole community,” Ann Bennett said.

“Matoaka always gets such a bad rap,” Lusk said. “We want young people to be proud of where they come from … proud of their homes.”

Fourteen area fire departments spent a long day Friday afternoon, evening and night, battling the Barger Street blaze. “I had just started to take a bite out of the sandwich I was ready to eat for lunch when the pager went off,” a Bluewell Volunteer Fire Department firefighter said. He carried the sandwich with him on the way to the fire hall in Bluewell.

“I would say we had somewhere between 75 and 90 personnel here fighting the fire on Friday,” Assistant Matoaka Fire Chief John Sommers said. He said 14 departments including departments from Lester, Ghent, Mullens, Northfork, Princeton, Bluefield, East River, Green Valley-Glenwood, Athens, Bluewell, Montcalm, Bluestone Valley, Bramwell and Matoaka responded…

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