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Stoneleigh fire victim doing better, fire marshal says

Friday, November 16, 2012

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The man injured in a blaze near Stoneleigh on Wednesday is doing well, according to Henry County Fire Marshal Pete Draper.

Allen Donley, 46, of Bassett, told Draper that he suffered first- and second-degree burns on “his hands, feet, ankles and a little on his face.”

Donley was flown to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. for treatment, and during a phone call from there on Thursday, “his voice was real clear. For what he went through, he’s doing extremely well,” Draper said.

However, Donley is “still a little sketchy on what happened” to cause the incident, Draper said.

Donley is a part-time maintenance worker at the historic estate in Stanleytown. He said he had been “going in and out” of the property each day, Draper said.

On Wednesday evening, Donley’s truck “somehow or another ran over top of the fill valve of a 1,000-gallon underground propane tank, and that sparked the fire,” Draper said. The blaze “completely consumed the vehicle.”

Donley was “in the truck, and when he opened the door, that is when he actually got burned,” Draper added.

Darrell Fulcher of Bassett was walking with co-worker, Andrew Capps, in the parking lot at CPFilms/Eastman on The Great Road in Fieldale a few minutes after 6 p.m. Wednesday when he and a saw and felt the blast that sparked the fire.

“I had a flashback from my past military experience” when the “initial blast created a mushroom cloud and was way above the trees,” he wrote in an email. The flames that followed the blast remained that high for “the first 10 minutes or so,” he added.

“My hat is off to our rescue and firefighters for such a quick response, as well as our police,” Fulcher wrote. “I’ve seen this type of thing before but never this close to home.”

The fire continued to burn on Thursday, Draper said. “We are going to let it burn until it burns” off the propane in the tank. “The tank was basically full” when the incident occurred.

A gas company representative spent a significant amount of time at the scene Wednesday, “and we talked with him several times. He said the best thing we could do was to stand back and let it burn,” Draper said.

The blaze is in “the middle of a side yard, so there is no danger of starting another fire” closer the home, Draper said.

Junior Lynch, chief of the Bassett Fire Department, said at the scene Wednesday night that the truck was about 75 feet from the Stoneleigh mansion, and the only other property damage was to a basketball goal.

A small brush fire was kindled Wednesday night as a result of the blaze, Draper said.

Fire crews “had to contend with that also,” he said, adding that fire was contained relatively quickly.

In addition to Henry County Public Safety and the Bassett Volunteer Fire Department, the Henry County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police also responded to the scene.

The Stoneleigh property is located on Edgewood Drive in Stanleytown and includes about 51 acres, according to previous reports.

It was built by the late Virginia governor Thomas Stanley and took three years to complete. Construction was finished in 1929. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Stoneleigh LLC bought the property in July 2011, according to previous reports.

The limited liability corporation, which represents a group of people with ties to the area, bought the property at an undisclosed price from Citimortgage Inc.


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