By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (April 15, 2015) — Firefighters from the City of Stephenville and Erath County fought to save a significant piece of community history early Wednesday morning.
Just after midnight as Tuesday gave way to Wednesday, Stephenville Fire Department was dispatched to the Stephenville Historical Museum for a fire in the Berry House, a two-story rock house at the front of the museum grounds adjacent to Washington Street. The building, which has served in many capacities at the museum and is listed as the oldest house in Stephenville by the Texas Historical Commission, was unoccupied at the time of the fire.
Firefighters soon called for all off-duty officers to report to the scene, as well as asking Erath County Volunteer Fire and Rescue for assistance. They were heroes indeed, saving the structure from becoming a complete loss.
As of 2 a.m. Wednesday, firefighters had the situation under control, but were still hard at work removing furniture from the damaged historical building, according to reports heard on an emergency scanner.
Shortly after 2 a.m., Stephenville Historical Museum Board of Directors member Robin Ritchie posted the following comment to the Erath County Breaking News Facebook page (edited):
“The fire has been contained. No major structural damage, mainly water damage so far. Some of the museum board members are here moving out the furniture and taking care of things. We appreciate everybody’s support and we sure do thank SFD, Erath Co. FD and SPD for responding to the call. They saved the Berry House.”
The National Park Service certified the Berry House as a national historic site on May 14, 1980, according to http://historical-places.findthebest.com/.
Stephenville Police Department also responded to the scene, blocking off a portion of Washington Street and re-routing traffic as firefighters worked to save the Berry House.
UPDATE 8:30 a.m.
PHOTOS by RUSSELL HUFFMAN
STEPHENVILLE (April 15, 2015) — The Stephenville Historical Museum will be closed today (Wednesday, April 15) due to damage done by flames and smoke overnight. According to Board of Directors officials, the museum will not open at 10 a.m., or at all today, while Stephenville Fire Department and Fire Marshals investigate what caused the fire and museum volunteers work to clean up.
“At this point the extent of the damage to the building is unknown. Most of the contents were saved. The cause is undetermined at this time, however, we await the fire marshal’s report,” the board said in a post to the museum’s Facebook page. “Our sincere thanks to the Stephenville Fire and Police Departments and the Erath County Fire Department for their valiant efforts to save both the historic building and its irreplaceable contents. We appreciate everyone’s thoughts and concerns and will share more information as it becomes available.”