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Fire damages building, displaces 25 residents
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A three-story apartment building at 1605 Spruce St. Ext., caught fire on Wednesday. The building suffered damage to the front portico, and crews used chain saws to cut into the roof. No injuries were reported. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

An apartment building fire Wednesday evening displaced 11 families but caused no injuries.

The fire at the three-story brick apartment building at 1605 Spruce St. Ext., near the intersection of Druid Lane, broke out around 5:45 p.m. Few flames were visible 30 minutes later, although smoke still could be seen coming from the roof at that time. A two-story portico on the front of the building was charred.

A Martinsville fire truck extended its ladder to the roof and a firefighter used a chain saw to cut through the roof, according to Jeff Adkins of Martinsville, who manages the building for Spruce Street Apartments. Smoke also poured from the roof at the opposite end of the building.

Adkins said early indications were that the fire started in a three-bedroom unit at the top right corner on the back of the building.

The four top units in the building likely had the most damage, he said, and the bottom units likely will have water damage from the fire-fighting efforts.

Henry County Public Safety Director Rodney Howell said Wednesday the cause would not be determined until today.

“It’s still under investigation,” Howell said. “You always consider it accidental first.”

Howell said crews would return early today to begin the investigation.

All the units in the building had been damaged in some way, Howell said. Four of those were damaged by heat and fire. “One of those had severe damage. That would be the apartment the fire started in,” he said.

Adkins estimated 25 people lived in the 11 occupied apartments in the 12-unit building.

“A lot of people have lived there a long time. It’s a sad day for them,” he said. “We have good tenants here. It’s devastating for them.”

The Red Cross was on the scene Wednesday night, and all the residents were taken care of that night, Adkins said.

“They’re displaced. We’re going to help as much as we can,” Adkins said. “... Hopefully we can find them some place to rent” on a longer-term basis.

One woman, who declined to give her name, said she had lived in a bottom unit of the building for about 20 years. She said there had never been any similar problems there in the past.

Another man showed up looking for his son, Shawn Law, who has lived in the building for three years. A relative had talked to Law, so the man knew his son was all right.

Spruce Street Apartments, which is owned by Adkins’ mother, Marie, and brother, Steve, owns nine other units in two buildings on Spruce Street, Jeff Adkins said. In all, he manages 160 apartments.

“We’ve had kitchen fires” and other small incidents, but “this is the most extensive damage” that has occurred in one of the buildings, he added.

The building, which was constructed around the mid 1960s, was valued at around $400,000, Adkins estimated. Before he could view the damage inside, he said rebuilding probably would cost $300,000. The building was insured, he added.

“Tomorrow we’ll get in, assess the damage and get information,” he said, assuming the fire marshal says it is safe to enter.

The building is in Henry County, right on the city line.

Safety crews arrived on the scene about 5:45 p.m. and remained until after 9:30 p.m., Howell said. The blaze was fought by the Martinsville Fire Department, Axton, Collinsville, Ridgeway and Dyers Store volunteer fire departments. Also responding were the Martinsville Police Department and Henry County Sheriff’s Office.

Howell estimated a crew of about 50 fought the blaze. No injuries were reported to firefighters or police.

Adkins praised the firefighters at the scene.

“It was a very dangerous situation,” he said. “We have a great fire department. It was risky.

“Luckily, everyone got out. We can build everything back. At least no one was hurt,” Adkins added.


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