High School Football

Fire destroys Petersburg High football field house; players escape burning building

PETERSBURG, W.Va. –No one was injured following an accidental fire that destroyed the Petersburg High School Football Field House before practice Wednesday afternoon.

Assistant Head Coach Denver Riggleman said members of the team were in the field house after school at about 3:30 p.m. when a case of field marker spray paint tipped over knocking off the tip of a stray paint can. The fumes were ignited by a nearby propane gas furnace.

“There was a big explosion and we had our trainer and two kids who had to basically run through the flames to get out,” Riggleman said. “We were very fortunate that nobody got hurt.”

Grant County School Superintendent Doug Lambert noticed the fire from his office.

“We had kids in there dressing. We had kids at the taping table close by. Thankfully, and I do mean this sincerely, they were all able to exit,” Lambert said during a Thursday appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Riggleman and another man tried to put the fire out.

“I grabbed a water hose that we had hooked up outside and was trying to extinguish the fire but the paint cans just kept exploding and then there was one great big explosion and big flames went flying up on the door behind me and I thought it was time for me to get out of there too,” Riggleman said.

The roof and rafters of the building were destroyed along with with damage to the team’s equipment.

“The great majority our kids equipment was in there,” Riggleman said. “We didn’t take time to pick nothing up, we just got them out. Their equipment is not destroyed beyond repair but they can’t wear it Friday night.”

Other schools have stepped forward to provide equipment for this week’s final regular season game. Riggleman and Lambert both said the response from the local community and the region has been incredible.

‘It’s just amazing the calls that have come in for offers of helps. There is hope in this world for humanity,” Lambert said.

“It brings me to tears to think of the people who have reached out,” Riggleman said. “It’s unreal. It goes on and on and on and on. That’s our state. That’s the way it’s always been like here.”

Keyser High will provide helmets and pads. Roane County High, which suffered its own tragedy earlier this season with the death of player Alex Miler, is offering football pants for Petersburg players to wear. The school has also heard from Tucker County High, Loudoun County, Va. and many others, Riggleman said.

Friday night’s game with East Hardy, which was scheduled to be the final home game of the season for Petersburg, will be played at Moorefield High, Lambert said.

“That’s senior night and they want to have their senior night and we want to honor that obviously. It’s a big moment for high school seniors. They’re resilient. They just want to play ball,” Lambert said.

Investigators with the state Fire Marshal’s Office were scheduled to begin their on-site investigation Thursday. The school system’s insurance carrier has already been contacted.

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