This story was updated Saturday, June 1 at 2:40 p.m. to include additional information about donation drop-off locations.

A two-alarm fire on West Main Street in Alexandria on Thursday, May 30 has left several families and businesses displaced indefinitely while the building undergoes inspection. 

The fire began just before 1 p.m. on Thursday. State Route 37, which cuts through Alexandria, was closed for several hours while emergency responders from various local fire departments fought the blaze.

The building at 14 W. Main Street, which was home to two or three businesses and several occupied apartments, will remain empty pending an investigation, St. Albans Fire Chief Michael Theisen said Friday. 

The buildings along that block of Main Street in Alexandria are all connected to one another, and Theisen said the potential for the fire to spread and do further damage was high. 

“This was a rare, very significant event,” Theisen said. “We had 31 apparatuses respond to it from various departments because of the high-life threat. When you look at that building, that building has the potential to affect the other ones on the street, and then you’re talking about a really big fire.” 

Theisen said there were no injuries reported at the scene, but said the building will need significant work before it is habitable again. 

“The entire second floor will need a complete remodel — we had to cut a couple holes in the roof,” he said. “A structural engineer is coming out Monday because there were some concerns that were brought up after the fire due to the extensive damage.”

Residents of the building — an estimated 11 tenants, including several children — are currently being assisted by the Red Cross, but that help is temporary, Alexandria resident Brian Hammond said Friday. Hammond, born and raised in the village, is organizing donations and support for the displaced families. 

“This is going to be a huge challenge for [those families], and we don’t have to make them navigate this on their own,” Hammond said. “It’s not just their home that’s gone – it’s everything that was inside, too.” 

Hammond said the biggest need for the families right now is toiletries, clothing and non-perishable food, though furniture like beds and home items like sheets will be vital in the coming weeks. They’re also collecting toys and games for the displaced children, including age-appropriate toys for a 6-year-old boy, a 10-year-old boy, a 13-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy.

Donation bins have been set up at the Alexandria Church of Christ, the Alexandria Post Office, Ragamuffins Coffee just across the street from the burned building, the Alexandria Methodist Church, the Alexandria Baptist Church and the Alexandria Public Library. 

Furniture donations can be made at the churches by appointment, Hammond said.

During Sunday services at the Church of Christ, the Methodist church and the Baptist church, parishioners will be collecting cash and check donations (with “fire fund” in the memo line) for the displaced families. The funds will be evenly split among the apartment residents Sunday evening.

Part of the challenge, Hammond said, was available services in the community. Alexandria, a village of about 500 people, has limited housing available, few service or support organizations and zero grocery stores in village limits. 

“We’ve never had a situation like this where we’ve had so many people displaced,” Hammond said. “Yesterday highlighted what we don’t have in the area.” 

“We have a real tight-knit community, a town of 500 people and one traffic light,” he added. “These families are an integral part of the community here, and they’re basically going to be helped, or they’re going to be forced to move somewhere else.” 

This story was updated Saturday, June 1 at 2:40 p.m. to include additional information about donation drop-off locations.

Julia Lerner writes for write for, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is supported by generous donations from readers. Sign up for The Reporting Project newsletter here.