Woman Killed In County Blaze
Cause Of Fire Remains Under Investigation
HARRISONBURG — Ronnie Barber’s phone rang late Sunday night.
The call was from a family member telling Barber that his sister’s apartment on Lincolnshire Drive in Rockingham County was on fire. The 65-year-old Harrisonburg resident rushed to the home, a four-unit apartment building.
“You couldn’t see nothing but smoke,” said Barber, adding he was devastated watching the flames consume the building. “You didn’t want to see that.”
He soon would find out that his 68-year-old sister, Marcella Ruth Tams, likely died in the blaze. Her body hadn’t been positively identified by a medical examiner as of Monday afternoon, but firefighters say a female was taken out of the home she occupied.
“Everybody loved her,” said Barber, adding that she retired from Merck in Elkton several years ago. “She was a good lady.”
Rockingham County Fire and Rescue responded to the blaze at 1131 Lincolnshire Drive, just off Mount Clinton Pike, around 10 p.m.
They were quickly joined by dozens of additional firefighters from the Harrisonburg Fire Department and several volunteer stations throughout the county.
County Fire Chief Jeremy Holloway said the first engine was on scene within six minutes of the first 911 call.
“The fire was spreading to the roofline when we got there,” Holloway said.
The apartment building didn’t have firewalls separating the units. Because it was built in 1975, the building wasn’t required to have them, Holloway said. New construction has to adhere to more strict fire codes, including the mandated firewalls.
He said the building, assessed at about $330,000, is likely a total loss. He said most of the $75,000 to $100,000 worth of property inside the units was also likely destroyed.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Holloway said it could take several days to determine what sparked the blaze.
Samantha Tucker, 24, lives in the building behind where the fire took place. Her girlfriend woke her up after noticing the blaze.
“As we sat there, we could just see it spreading,” Tucker said. “It was scary.”
She soon learned her neighbor died.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Tucker said.
Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or email@example.com