SHEPHERDSTOWN – Daniel Tokar has been a blacksmith for 33 years, spending the last 12 of those in his Willow Forge shop in Shepherdstown.
But on the evening of Nov. 30, the shop caught fire, leaving the building uninhabitable and many of the tools of his trade damaged or ruined.
“It’s quite a mess,” he said.
While state fire marshals have yet to determine the cause of the fire, Tokar says he believes it was caused by arson because the outside of his back wall was completely burned away, while his interior wall remained partially intact. That leads him to believe that the fire started outside the shop.
The damage from the fire will come out of Tokar’s pocket because insurance for a blacksmith shop is prohibitively expensive.
“There is too small of a statistical base,” he said, which means that insurance companies will default to their highest rates. “This is the only time in 33 years I have had something like this happen.”
Tokar estimates that the total damage to his equipment will be about $10,000.
“I have this running total in my head. When I pick something up and throw it away, I say, ‘Ok, well that’s another $75,’” he said, adding many of his tools are worth between $50 and $400.
“We are trying to save what we can. Some of the big equipment will take a while,” he said.
He said he plans to stay near Shepherdstown. “There are an awful lot of good people around town. I’ve gotten a lot of help from people,” he said. “Shepherdstown is a known quantity.”
Tokar said he was very happy to learn that the two cats he keeps in his shop were unharmed in the fire. “Life trumps stuff. As long as I am alive and the cats are alive, I can deal with anything else. It’s just time and money.”
Tokar said he was grateful for the quick response by area fire departments and has been encouraged by support he’s received from the community.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me out,” he said. “It has gotten to be quite a long list. Dozens of friends and more than that of town people have pitched in.”
Tokar said because most of his records were destroyed in the fire, he will not be able to fill orders that had been placed ahead of Christmas.