Maynard Stuart was traveling in Charleston, W.Va Saturday when he received a phone call from a friend in Ashe that would forever change his life. Stuart was informed that an inferno, which firefighters began combating around 8:30 p.m., had wreaked significant damage on his home.
“I was just devastated,” Stuart said Monday.
Crews from the West Jefferson, Jefferson, and New River volunteer fire departments worked through most of the evening to contain the blaze that had engulfed the home at the foot of Mt. Jefferson on Academy Street.
As firefighters controlled the blaze Saturday and began looking for signs of hidden fire in the remaining structure, they scanned the entire premises with a thermal camera, looking for potential hot spots.
Despite their best efforts, the fire rekindled, sending fire fighters from the Jefferson Fire Department back to the scene Sunday.
An early investigation by the department indicated that the fire most likely started on an outside wall joining one of the bedrooms, possibly starting at an electrical panel.
On Saturday evening, the Jefferson department held its annual dinner in Boone and had arranged with the West Jefferson Fire Department for back up coverage while they were away. The two departments operate under written mutual aid agreements.
According to an inter local agreement set up by county officials, a local fire department will be put on “stand by” if it is known in advance that another department will be unavailable at any time for any reason.
Early speculation from fire fighters suggest that a hot ember from the Saturday evening blaze could have possibly embedded itself within packed and dry items in the house’s attic.
Although the initial blaze accounted for the “gutting” or destruction of two rooms in the house, the second fire caused considerable damage to the structure, rendering the home unsalvageable, authorities say
Stuart has resided in Ashe County his entire life and was born near the North Fork of the New River. The owner of the Jefferson Florist later relocated to the Jefferson community where he set up a flower shop that would quickly become an area favorite.
Stuart has been known for his generosity and kind heartedness. In recognition of important lifetime milestones in the community, Stuart sends a bouquet of roses to any local citizen who reaches the ripe age of 100.
Today, Stuart is facing a more daunting task. After this weekend’s blaze turned years upon years of accumulated possessions and memories into ashes, he is simply trying to put his life back together. A room at Nations Inn in West Jefferson will be his home until he can find an apartment to begin rebuilding a life, he said.
“Right now, I’m just trying to get some clothes together and get settled in,” Stuart said.
Despite the weekend turmoil, Stuart has returned to Ashe County where he opened his shop on Monday as scheduled.