Dairy Winkle, a community staple of Campbells Creek in Eastern Kanawha County, is “a total loss” after a fire Wednesday morning.
Calls about the fire came in around 9:45 a.m., according to a dispatch supervisor at Kanawha County Metro 911. Firefighters responded to find “heavy fire” coming from the building’s roof, Malden Fire Chief William “Squeak” Peterson said.
Crews knocked the fire down and, by around 11 a.m., they were working to extinguish flames still between the building’s two roofs, Peterson said.
“We’ve got some major overhaul to do, as far as separating and getting in between,” Peterson said.
Peterson said the building will not be salvageable.
“It’s not going to be able to be rebuilt, in my opinion,” he said. “It’s going to be a total loss. I mean, you’ll find a few artifacts salvageable.”
Owner Kerry “Paco” Ellison said he discovered the fire above the deep fryer after going to the bathroom. He attempted to put it out himself with two fire extinguishers before calling 911.
“I was cussing the fire suppression for not coming on, and I realized it was on but apparently the fire was above it. So that’s when I called 911,” Ellison said.
Ellison opened Dairy Winkle 12 years ago this June, he said.
“I made it almost 12 years,” Ellison said. “I’m seeing the roof, and I just I can’t imagine that it’s not a total loss.”
Ellison said he had replaced the roof in 2021 for $45,000. He said his finger was burnt in the blaze, but he was otherwise uninjured. No other injuries were reported.
“Bottom line is, it’s just stuff,” he said of the building. “It’s stuff that made up my life, but it’s just stuff. I didn’t have anybody [injured], and I got wounded. That’s my one wound. I had my wife take a picture of it and I said, ‘Well, tell the Dairy Winkle I fought for it. I went down fighting.’”
While the business was nearly 12 years old, the building itself was much older. It was built in the late 1950s or early 1960s and was originally an Amoco gas station. After that, it was Bowincal restaurant from 1975 through around 2000, Ellison said.
Ellison, who lives less than a mile away from the restaurant, has long been a fixture in Campbells Creek.
Peterson said the fire will hurt the community a lot.
“I’ve had a lot of meals here,” he said. “I laughed earlier and said I love the milk shakes and ice cream, as you can look at me and see. But, you know, that was a staple. Paco has done so much for the community, and the community supported him. He’s been an advocate for the community.
“It’s a blow for the community,” he added. “I don’t know what he’ll do. I hope he rebuilds, but that’s up to him at this point.”