- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 14, 2007

HUNTINGTON, W.Va., (AP) — Fire ravaged an apartment building, killing at least seven persons, including a child, and authorities said yesterday that they feared the death count could grow.

The fire erupted in the 64-unit, five-story building late Saturday. Firefighters discovered two bodies and a child on the building’s top floor while fighting the blaze, and crews found four more bodies yesterday morning on that floor, Fire Chief Greg Fuller said. The child died on the way to a hospital.

“We have not been able to complete the search,” Chief Fuller said, adding that part of the fifth floor was blocked because the building’s roof and a portion of the floor collapsed.

Chief Fuller said the building housed city residents as well as Marshall University students.

Fourteen persons were rescued, the chief said, and four were listed in serious or critical condition yesterday afternoon. One firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation and released. Firefighters had called off their search for trapped residents during the night out of fear the structure could collapse, city Fire Marshal David Bias said.

“It’s a very sad day,” Marshal Bias said. “It’s very troubling when you have a building of this size and you work as hard as they have and you just come up a little short.”

The fire was reported at about 11 p.m. Saturday. Fire departments from nearby Ohio and Kentucky also responded. Marshal Bias said it could take days to determine the cause of the blaze that began in a second-floor unit. From that apartment, flames and smoke shot up utility access channels to the upper floors, Chief Fuller said.

The building, built in 1924, is owned by Woodlark Enterprises Inc. of White Plains, N.Y., Chief Fuller said. A message left at the company was not returned.

Resident Dreama Tackit said her family made it out safely.

“All I heard was people screaming, ‘Get my baby out of here,’ ” she said. “And then it was like ‘run, run, run.’ ”

Patricia Betts said she arrived home to find smoke filling her apartment.

“My brother was in my apartment watching our kids, and smoke started coming from the closet. They were outside in the hallway sitting on the steps when I got home,” she said. “We opened the door and smoke was everywhere. Then my whole apartment just blew up.”

Officials did not release the victims’ identities.

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