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Six-story building catches fire in downtown Huntington

By David Gutman, Staff writer and Ryan Quinn
LAWRENCE PIERCE | Gazette
As firefighters exit, water floods out of the Morris Building in downtown Huntington Sunday. It took nearly four hours and at least five fire departments to extinguish the fire.
LAWRENCE PIERCE | Gazette Assistant Chief James Cooper, of the Ceredo Volunteer Fire Department, takes a break from fighting the fire in the Morris building in downtown Huntington Sunday. Cooper’s department was one of at least four nearby fire departments that joined the Huntington department in fighting the fire.
LAWRENCE PIERCE | Gazette Virtually all of the Huntington Fire Department, as well as at least four neighboring fire departments, fought a fire at the Morris Building in downtown Huntington Sunday.
LAWRENCE PIERCE | Gazette Fire engines spray water on the roof of the Morris Building in Huntington, where a fire started in an elevator shaft Sunday.
LAWRENCE PIERCE | Gazette Firemen check the roof of a building adjacent to the one that caught fire in downtown Huntington Sunday.

A fire at an apartment building in downtown Huntington Sunday required nearly four hours, almost all of the Huntington Fire Department and at least four neighboring volunteer fire departments to put it out, Cabell County 911 said.

The Morris Building, at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street, caught fire sometime before 8:40 Sunday morning, a 911 dispatcher said.

The six-story brick building has apartments on upper floors and businesses — including Backyard Pizza & Raw Bar and The Peddler — on lower floors. The fire was completely extinguished at about 1:15, Cabell County 911 said.

Volunteer fire departments from Barboursville, Green Valley and Ceredo, among others, were at the scene, the dispatcher said.

Cabell County emergency services director Gordon Merry said all occupants of the building left safely, although a Huntington firefighter suffered a leg injury and was transported to a local hospital.

In a Facebook post, Cabell County 911 said it looked like the fire started in an old elevator shaft near the top of the building.

“The elevator shaft collapsed to the fourth floor and spread to other parts of the building,” the agency wrote. “The fire did not spread to neighboring buildings but there is some water damage.”

Flames were seen shooting through the building’s roof. Two ladder trucks were taken down by late morning due to the threat of high winds from an approaching thunderstorm. Streets surrounding the building were closed.

The Morris Building is next to buildings housing O’Malley’s Pub and Hibachi Japanese Steakhouse. It is on the same block as the Cabell County Public Library and Huntington Junior College.

Bryan Chambers, communications director for the city of Huntington, said he didn’t know whether the building, which he believes was built around 1919, is a total loss. He said the city building inspector and the fire marshal were assessing the damage. He heard there was heavy water damage on many floors.

“It sounds like it may be pretty grim for the businesses on the ground floor,” Chambers said.

He said Backyard Pizza & Raw Bar is one Huntington’s more popular restaurants, and The Peddler, which opened a few months ago, was also becoming a favorite. Drew Hetzer, who was planning to put a microbrewery on the second floor, owns both.

“He’s a really good guy — really community-oriented,” Chambers said of Hetzer.

Around 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon, more than 80 people had expressed their sympathy for Hetzer under a post on his Facebook page in which he requested prayers for the firefighters’ safety.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Ryan Quinn at ryan.quinn@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5119 or follow @davidlgutman on Twitter.


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