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Arson suspected in Chesapeake apartment fire

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Officials from the state Fire Marshal's office will investigate a suspicious fire at a Chesapeake apartment building this morning.

Kanawha County Deputy Emergency Services Director C.W. Sigman said a fire broke out outside an apartment building at 12600 Venable Ave. at around 1:30 a.m. He said furniture, debris and a tire had been piled against an outside wall and set on fire.

"With the lack of any other combustion source, it would have to be arson," Sigman said.

Sigman said the fire destroyed six electric meters on the outside of the building and damaged a stairwell. He said the building has about two-dozen apartments, but not all were occupied at the time of the fire.

Sigman said the fire was put out quickly and no one was hurt. However, rescuers had to wake up building occupants because smoke detectors weren't working. Sigman said it appeared that smoke detectors had been attached but never hooked up.

He said emergency lights were also not working, and firefighters found evidence of faulty wiring throughout the building. "It needs to be looked at before someone gets hurt," Sigman said.

According to Sigman, the building's owner said the apartment building was in foreclosure and that he was no longer responsible for upkeep. However, residents are still paying rent, Sigman said.

The state Fire Marshal's office is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-233-3473. Callers may remain anonymous. Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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