By Emily Gallagher
Times West Virginian
“I was sick to my stomach,” Mike Zemonick said about seeing his business, Chancelor’s Auction, in flames Thursday morning.
At 4:51 a.m., a call was made for a structure fire at Chancelor’s Auction, also known as Blondie’s, near Farmington along Husky Highway.
Farmington Fire Chief Jon Sanders said when crews arrived on scene they found a working structure fire that turned into a fullly involved structure fire.
“The building collapsed while we were fighting the fire,” he said.
Sanders said several fire departments from Marion, Monongalia and Wetzel counties responded to the fire and were on scene until 11 a.m. This caused both lanes of U.S. Route 250 to be closed until 10 a.m.
Due to the fire, North Marion High, Mannington Middle and Blackshere Elementary schools were closed for the entire day.
Zemonick said his family built the business, and it was their life since 1995.
“Our whole life was built around this,” he said. “I work 16 hours a day and haven’t had a day off in 15 years — it was just a part of us.”
Zemonick said the business was a local hangout and a welcoming place where people could have fun.
“It was the local hangout Saturday and Thursday nights,” he said. “A lot of people would like to come; we had regular people who came every week.”
Zemonick said some nights he stays at the business, and his family was concerned he was in the building when the fire broke out.
“I sleep there some nights and (my family) thought I was still there,” he said.
Chancelor’s is known for having auctions but also for holding events. Zemonick said they always like to help people.
“We just held an elimination dinner for the Vietnam Veterans new chapter in Mannington,” he said. “I don’t do this to make money; I do this to help people.”
Zemonick said everything inside the building was lost, but having the building itself be gone is another emotion for him. He said the business was his family’s life for the last 17 years.
“We can’t replace what was inside of it,” he said. “There was a lot of stuff here that we lost.”
For now, the business will mostly work through the store in Barrackville.
“Luckily we just built that in Barrackville,” Zemonick said.
With the holiday season approaching, Zemonick said it’s the busiest time of year for them. In fact, the auction that was set for this Saturday is still going to go on.
“We didn’t have any of their stuff here because it was too expensive for them to transport,” he said. “We’re still going to have to find something temporary, though, because we have Christmas time coming up, and that’s our busiest time of the year, even if we have to pitch a tent.”
Zemonick said the loss of the business will not hold the family down and that they will bounce back and rebuild.
“We’re not quitters,” he said. “We’ve been through some tragedies, but we don’t quit. We find a way to go on.”
The family has already gotten support from local residents and state officials.
“I got off the phone with Sen. Joe Manchin and he said not to quit and to go on,” Zemonick said. “And that’s what we have to do.”
Sanders said the fire is not suspicious and that the West Virginia state fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause of the fire.
Mackey Ayersman, assistant state fire marshal, said in a statement that the “fire appears to have originated in the back of the auction house side of the structure,” which consisted of several additions and two homes joined to create one building.
He said the loss may exceed $1 million. The exact cause has not been identified, and the investigation continues.
Email Emily Gallagher at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.