PETERSBURG, W.Va. — Despite a fire which crippled the Petersburg High School football team on the final week of the regular season, members of the staff are counting their blessings.
“This could have had whole lot different outcome. This is a story of God and I’m glad He wrote the ending He did and not an alternative ending,” said Benjamin Shirk.
Shirk is the trainer for the Petersburg High School football team. He was in the training room preparing for Wednesday’s practice when a sudden fire broke out in a storage area outside of his door. A case of a dozen cans of spray paint overturned, causing one to discharge into a lit gas furnace. The combustible fumes of the paint ignited and caused the cans one by one to explode.
“It was just in that hallway at first, we could hear the paint cans exploding, but no sooner than when we got out onto the field, we could hear the big explosions,” he told Metronews.
Most of the team was in the locker room, dressing for practice when it started. They were able to quickly head out the door of the locker room. But Shirk and the two players in the training room were in an entirely different situation, they were trapped by the fire right outside their door and would have to cross through the rapidly growing flames to get away.
“I guess just panic set in and we could hear from the other side of the fire Coach Wes (Alexander) yelling, ‘You have to run through it.’ We heard him and suddenly it went from panic to a calmness.” he said.
The players and Shirk darted through the flames, which by then were up to eye level from the floor and made it out the locker room door.
“All I remember is we were out on the other side and I was thankful,” Shirk said.
Soon after Shirk and the two players from the training room made it out, a larger explosion could be heard from within the building. It was more paint cans stored on a shelf in the same area.
“It wasn’t until we were all out that it started to really set in of what could have happened.” he said.