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Fire in East End apartments suspicious, authorities say

Chip Ellis
Firefighters say a fire that began just before 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at 1587 Jackson St. on the East End is suspicious. Charleston firefighters soaked the upper floor with massive amounts of water, but smoke continued to roll out of the apartment building's windows.
Chip Ellis Firefighter J. Kerns hoses down the top floor of a burning apartment building at 1587 Jackson St. on Wednesday night in Charleston. No injuries were reported.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Firefighters say a fire that started just before 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the 1500 block of Jackson Street on Charleston's East End is suspicious.

The fire at 1587 Jackson St. started on the second floor, said Charleston Fire Department Capt. Ken Tyree. The house is broken up into three or four apartments.

Firefighters were still fighting the blaze, which had spread to the attic by about 7 p.m., as smoke billowed from the roof and top-floor windows of the structure.

At first, officials believed the fire could have been the result of a meth lab because of prior incidents at some of the apartments, Tyree said.

However, Tyree said he was "85 percent sure it wasn't a meth lab."

All of the tenants escaped unharmed, Tyree said. It was too early to tell if any of the homes next to the one that caught fire had been harmed, but they didn't appear to be, according to Charleston Fire Administrative Chief Michael Shaffer.

Debbie Watson, 55, who lived in an apartment on the third floor of the house, said she was alerted to the fire by a smoke alarm on the second floor. She looked out her window and saw flames shooting from the kitchen window of the apartment below her.

As she stood on the street sipping water and watching firefighters break windows to ventilate the building, Watson said she was surprised a fire hadn't broken out there sooner.

"It should've been condemned a long time ago," said Watson, who has lived there six months. "It's really just one less dope house on the street."

A woman who lived in a house across the street from the apartments, who didn't want to give her name, said she remembered several drug busts taking place at the building.

"I know once they found heroin and crack," she said.

Watson said she had family in Huntington and would probably go there to stay.

"I keep thinking of stuff that's up there that belonged to my mother or grandmother, but it's all right, I've got their memories," Watson said.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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