Death Toll Rises In Huntington Apartment Fire

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - Investigators on Monday found the body
of a ninth victim in the charred debris left from a fire that
destroyed a five-story apartment building, authorities said.
With the discovery of the man's remains, all of the building's
residents were accounted for in the city's worst fire in nearly 50
years, authorities said.
Officials said it could take days to identify the cause of the
fire, which was reported about 11 p.m. Saturday. Officials said it
began in a second-floor unit, shooting flames and smoke up utility
access channels to the upper floors. Twenty-four people were
rescued, Fire Chief Greg Fuller said.
Two people remained in serious condition Monday and a third was
released, hospital spokeswoman Kathy Cosco said.
The dead include a 7-year-old boy and his mother, three siblings
ages 14, 17 and 19, and a 68-year-old woman.
"There's nothing more devastating. It's just an unbelievable
experience," Gov. Joe Manchin said.
"West Virginia's not that large. We are family and it affects
every one of us," he said.
The circa-1924 building did not have a sprinkler system. While
sprinklers are not required under state law, smoke alarms are, and
investigators were checking whether the building was in compliance.
Several smoke alarms were found, Fuller said.
Alex Vence, who manages the building for owner Woodlark
Enterprises Inc., said Monday there were smoke detectors in every
apartment and a recent inspection by fire officials found no
violations.
"We make sure the smoke detectors are in the rooms but it's not
up to us to make sure they're working," Vence said.
Woodlark Enterprises, based in White Plains, N.Y., did not
return a telephone message.
The building housed city residents as wells as students from
Marshall University.
The university said one victim was a student. Seven students
were relocated to the university's residence halls and others were
staying with friends or family. The American Red Cross said it was
helping 26 households affected by the fire.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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