WAYNE COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A large fire destroyed a gas station and convenience store early Sunday morning, leaving behind a smoldering shell of a building that was still smoking on Sunday afternoon.
The Pit Stop, a store and gas station on Route 52 in Wayne County near Fort Gay, has been around for more than thirty years.
Dispatchers tell WSAZ.com an employee of the store called 911 about 1:30 a.m. Sunday to let them know the store had caught on fire.
Firefighters from five departments -- Louisa, Prichard, Lowmansville, Big Sandy and Fort Gay -- showed up to battle the flames.
"Heavy smoke showing that was visible from about the intersection of Fort Gay," Chief Joseph Bowen of the Fort Gay Volunteer Fire Department said, describing what he saw when he got to the scene. "Shortly after, the fire started venting through the ceiling."
"It was a pretty big fire and I live probably 100 yards away," Murrel Tarkington, a neighbor, said. "You can feel the heat, enough to make you sweat."
Tarkington's home is just across Route 52. He said he got to the scene about the same time the firefighters arrived.
"I was woken up about 1:15, popping and cracking," Tarkington said. "I come outside the house to see a little bit of smoke and, within a minute or two, started seeing the flames."
Tarkington said he wanted to help any way he could to keep the fire from getting worse.
"Firefighters was trying to move a propane cabinet and I brought the four-wheeler over here and put a strap on it and pulled it out of the way so it wouldn't heat up and maybe explode," Tarkington said.
His family watched and shot video on their phone. The video shows Tarkington pulling the propane tank away from the building. Just a few seconds later, pops and explosions can be heard near the flames.
Firefighters are not sure what caused the fire to ignite. Bowen said the fire is being investigated by the state fire marshal's office.
Tarkington said he has grown up there and lived near The Pit Stop for about 35 years.
"Everything happens for a reason and I figure they'll probably have it built back up before long," he said.
The owner, A.J. Gogia, said he has owned the business since last September. He found out when the fire broke out Sunday morning through a phone call. He did not say whether he planned to rebuild.