POINT PLEASANT — The Point Pleasant community has stepped up during a local business’ time of need.
Mayor Brian Billings stated, “It was a very sad day for our historic city of Point Pleasant with the loss the River Museum on Sunday, like so many our hearts were broken watching the fire and smoke consume this wonderful facility. We are all very thankful that no one was hurt in this horrific tragedy. We (city) are so blessed to have such a great fire department who responded so quick and made every effort to save this building. I watched men and women from various fire departments fight this blaze and come out of the building exhausted and determined to go back and continue to fight the blaze. So proud of this community, our residents, city workers, river museum board members and others who came to lend support.”
Jack Fowler, Point Pleasant River Museum director, commented because of the all help received on Sunday during the fire, 60 to 70 percent of the items in the museum were saved.
“They were still fighting the fire up on the roof, water was pouring down through here, and people would come in here and start dragging stuff out,” said Fowler.
Fowler said the responses answered for assistance have been “amazing.” He explained volunteers from have come from outside of the community such as St. Albans and Gallia County in Ohio. Many local residents and city officials have been involved with recovering items from the fire and also cleaning items from the fire.
Fowler explained he and his staff stay encouraged to move forward because of the amount of support they have been receiving.
Billings stated, “Many businesses provided food, water, and towels for those in need. Many trucks were used to haul what could be saved to the Point Pleasant Youth Center where individuals worked diligently to clean and preserve the historic items. “
Mason County Commission Rick Handley explained he arrived on scene Sunday with his truck to assist with moving items out of the river museum along with a host of fellow volunteers. Once permission was given by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal to enter the building, they all got to work and stayed for several hours.
He returned again on Monday morning with another large group of volunteers to continue with moving and cleaning items from the river museum.
“People from all walks of life did what they could to help, they didn’t mind getting their hands dirty or their feet wet…that is why I live here,” said Handley.
He explained the replica of the Silver Bridge, a “prized possession” of the river museum’s has been saved. The piece needs cleaned up, but is still in tact.
Local volunteer Valerie Plants commented she had just visited the river museum on Saturday during the Point Pleasant Sternwheel Regatta and hearing about the fire broke her heart, so on Monday she with many other volunteers including her daughter, Shelby Plants, came by the Point Pleasant Youth Center to help in anyway needed.
Brandy Barkey Sweeney, a fellow local volunteer, added she went down to the scene of the fire on Sunday and could not help but feel emotional seeing the extent of the fire and all of those responding to help. Though the work to restore the items of the museum may feel overwhelming, Sweeney said the effort has to start somewhere.
“Let there be no doubt that when tragedy strikes, this city comes together and stands shoulder to shoulder to help in every possible way, ” said Billings.
Erin Perkins is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.