West Virginia

Fire leads to demolition of Charleston apartment building

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Nearly three dozen people are homeless and an apartment building in Charleston, just blocks from the state capital, is nonexistent after a fire Wednesday afternoon.

Crews began demolishing the four-story Regal Apartment building on the 1400 block of Kanawha Blvd. in Charleston Wednesday night after a fire broke out in the building just after 3 p.m

Resident Jimmie Jordan told MetroNews he was watching a movie in his fourth-floor apartment when he heard something in the hallway.

“I heard like a loud buzz, a crack. I looked out into the hallway and the lights were off and then there was a cracking sound in the attic and it was on fire,” Jordan said.

There are about three dozen apartments in the structure. Charleston firefighters arrived at the scene and evacuated residents of the building.

Another of these residents, Aaron Wright, lived in the complex’s basement apartments and was lucky to get out in time.

“Some people were nice enough to knock on my door and say, ‘Hey, the building is on fire,'” Wright said.

The roof collapsed in the fire for about an hour. At around 7 p.m., demolition crews began demolishing the building.

Charleston Fire Department Deputy Chief Corey Miller pulled his men out of the building for safety after the fire failed to be contained.

“There were some bends in the walls. At that point, we knew the building had to be demolished,” Miller said.

According to Charleston Fire Department Captain David Hodges, the initial approach to fighting the fire was an “offensive one,” but that approach soon changed.

“We started noticing some structural instabilities and the copious amounts of water. That hampered our efforts and made us take a defensive stance,” Hodges said.

Around 30 residents were evicted after the fire. Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin said the city is actively working with the Red Cross to assess residents’ needs.

“We’re working hand-in-hand with the Red Cross right now to make sure everyone has a safe place,” Goodwin said. “We’re working on getting everyone dinner and breakfast.”

Red Cross volunteer Tom Melone, along with many other volunteers, was on the scene a few hours after the fire broke out. Melone said situations like this, treating displaced residents, could take up to a month.

“People are losing their driver’s licenses, birth certificates. We help them replace their belongings,” Melone said. He has been a Red Cross volunteer for 2 years.

Patriot Services Group, a non-profit organization that owns the building, released a statement after the destruction, which said: “We are heartbroken by the material loss and related hardship. We are in constant communication and collaboration with local authorities and the Red Cross to ensure the immediate welfare and housing needs of displaced residents are met.”

Firefighters and demo crews are expected to be on site and demolish the building overnight through Thursday morning.

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