Residents and Business Owners Go Inside Morris Building After Fire

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The Huntington Fire Chief said Sunday's fire in the Morris Building does not appear to be suspicious, but it will take a few more weeks to pinpoint the exact cause.

Officials said most of the fire damage is to the roof of the building, but there's water damage throughout.

Huntington Fire Chief Carl Eastham said the damage to the building is fixable and it is still structurally sound.

"The building with a new roof, repaired elevator, is back in service, they've got some water damage throughout the building," Eastham said.

Still, the damage is extensive. The chief estimates it's anywhere between $250,000 and $500,000 worth of damage.

County records show the Morris Building was sold to its current owner, River City Properties, LLC., in 2004 for $575,000.

People who work and live in the building are also wondering what it will take to get their lives back to normal.

Monday, they got a first look at the inside and they said it was pretty bad.

One neighbor told the four units look like a war zone. He described them as dark, wet and having an overpowering smell of smoke.

Many of the people who lived in the building lost their furniture, TVs, and clothes.

Down below, the two restaurants, The Peddler and Backyard Pizza are also hit with significant water damage.

But, the owners are optimistic it can all be saved.

"We spent the last three years, building this life together, me and my roommate and it was gone in an hour," said Wayne Williams.

Williams lives in one of the four apartments in the Morris Building in Huntington.

Monday afternoon, maintenance workers took him and his roommate upstairs to collect some of their stuff.

"Just complete darkness, nobody around, which is unusual, just water constantly running down the steps, the smell of all the stuff burning, and all the chemicals from the materials. It chokes you; you can't even barely be in there," Williams said.

They said a lot of things are destroyed, though some can be salvaged.

"Just stuff we can wash, just our clothes, and a couple personal items and toiletries -- that's all we can really get and now we've got to find a new home. We're basically homeless now," Williams said.

Huntington fire officials said the fire appears to have been accidental. They said a lot of the fire was contained in the penthouse of the elevator.

"The ceilings have fallen in at our place everywhere," Williams said. "You couldn't even get into the bathroom. It was completely gone. The kitchen, it looked like someone threw stuff everywhere. It's not our house any more."

The chief said the fire ravaged a parapet roof, located about 4 feet above the concrete roof.

It collapsed, but he said the fire damage stops there.

"The building with a new roof, repaired elevator, is back in service, they've got some water damage throughout the building," Williams said.

Several floors down, The Peddler and Backyard Pizza restaurants are soaking wet, but otherwise owners said things are looking positive.

"We got to walk in and gather a few small valuables," said The Peddler and Backyard Pizza Owner Drew Hetzer.

He said their restaurants, which are generally busy, have a lot of water damage but look better than expected.

"I hope that we maintain this building and we're able to open up right where we left off," he said.

For now, the building stands charred and dark, and the people who live and work inside are searching for their next step.

"It's set me back a long way," Williams said.

The fire chief said they've closed areas surrounding the building because some of the brick and mortar may have become loose from the heat, water, and wind.

He said they're waiting for an engineer to check it out.

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