CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Nearly three dozen people are homeless and a Charleston apartment building just a few blocks from the state capitol is no more following a Wednesday afternoon fire.
Crews began to knock down the four-story Regal Apartment building in the 1400 block of Kanawha Blvd. in Charleston Wednesday night after a fire in the building broke out shortly 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 buzzing noise, a cracking noise. I looked out in the hallway and the lights were out and then a cracking noise in the attic and it was on fire,” Jordan said.
There are approximately three dozen apartments in the structure. Charleston firefighters arrived on the scene and evacuated the residents in the building.
Another one of those residents, Aaron Wright, lived in the basement apartments of the complex, and was lucky he got out when he did.
“Some people were nice enough to knock on my door and say ‘Hey, the building’s on fire,'” said Wright.
The roof collapsed about an hour into the blaze. By 7 p.m. demolition crews started to take the building down.
Assistant Chief of the Charleston Fire Department Corey Miller pulled his men out of the building for safety after the fire was unable to be contained.
“There was some bowing in the walls. At that point we knew the building had to come down,” Miller said.
The initial approach for dealing with the fire was an “offensive” one, according to Captain of the Charleston Fire Department David Hodges, but that approach soon changed.
“We started to notice some structural instabilities and the copious amounts of water. That hampered our efforts and led us to take a defensive stance,” Hodges said.
Around 30 residents have been displaced following the fire. Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin said the city is actively working with the Red Cross to find out the needs of the residents.
“We’re working hand in glove with Red Cross right now to make sure everyone has a safe place to be,” Goodwin said. “We’re working to get everybody dinner and breakfast.”
Red Cross volunteer Tom Melone was on the scene, along with many other volunteers, a few hours after the fire had struck. Melone said situations like this, treating residents who’ve been displaced, could take up to a month.
“People lose their drivers license, birth certificates. We’re helping them get their belongings replaced,” said Melone. He’s been a volunteer with Red Cross for 2 years.
Patriot Services Group, a non-profit organization who owns the building, released a statement following the destruction saying, “We are heartbroken for the material loss and the hardship this creates. We are in ongoing communication and collaboration with authorities on the scene and the Red Cross to ensure the immediate wellbeing and housing needs of the displaced residents are met.”
Fire and demo crews are expected to be on the scene and tearing the building down overnight into Thursday morning.