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UPDATE: Fire Ravages Morris Building; Fire Damage Contained to Roof, Elevator Shaft
On Sunday evening, July 27, Eastham told HNN, "Damage was contained to the roof and the elevator shaft. No other damage to the building other than water." His statement comes from early examination of the structure by the department. Additional inspections will take place in the upcoming days. He added that the building's "significant" construction allowed it to withstand "what it was up against."
Huntington Fire Fighters with the help of surrounding emergency responders put out the ravaging blaze that burned the roof and elevator shaft of the "fireproof" former Hotel Farr/Hotel Governor Cabell. In an Sunday noon interview, he described the fire fighting circumstances as "organized chaos," as teams inside battled the fire and teams outside rested waiting for their turn to go in and replace their exhausted brothers and sisters.
The fire apparently began before 9 a.m. on the Sixth Floor and spread to an elevator shaft enveloping the roof of the seven story structure. Oliver Bailey, manager of Backyard Pizza entered the business, smelled smoke, heard a boom and called 911.
Eastham indicated that firefighters evacuated residents who lived on the fifth, sixth and seventh floors of the building. All escaped without injury. Firefighter Shane Masters suffered a broken leg from a blast of a water canyon.
Fire officials brought in outside assistance, including aerial trucks, after flames forced them out of the structure. With the additional help, they were able to get ahead of the fire and reenter the structure. Using aerial trucks to access all sides of the fire, firefighters used nearby structures as staging areas. One firefighter watched the scene from atop the neighboring West Virginia Building, allowing a fisheye view of the burning building below.
Firefighters battled not only flames but the weather. Strong winds whipped up smoke and ash.
The upper story of a structure next door suffered smoke damage. Two other businesses adjoining the Morris Structure suffered water damage. No word yet on whether Backyard Pizza and The Peddler on the first floor will be able to reopen. Art work has been removed from the Pizza establishment where it had been displayed.
On social media, injured firefighter Masters wrote: "Thankful for the hard work HFD. I'm proud to be apart of such a great brotherhood. Words can't even describe the actions that was taken to get me safely down. I'm out of the hospital and seeing a specialist tomorrow. To see everyone stop what they were doing and know that you were there for me will never be forgotten."
(For a partial listing of regional responders and volunteers, visit: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/91961 )
Eastham indicated that the Morris Building did not have a sprinkler system. Ironically, a faded sign on the Ninth Street side indicates that it is "fireproof." However, following Eastham's water damage assessment, construction methods may have assisted in preventing additional damage. The chief is not a stranger to high rise fires. He was the last firefighter out of the Emmons Junior Apartments which killed nine people. Eastham's helmet melted.
About 50 employees are out of jobs at the two first floor restaurants.
The fate of the darkened building worries those stopping by to take a look. Although the Fire Chief stated that water , not fire , damage encompasses the entire structure, the building's eventual revival likely rests in the hands of an insurance company. For instance, the Emmons Senior apartments were untouched by the flames that took nine lives next door, but the amount of water damage to the adjoining structure persuaded insurers to opt for demolition, rather than the cost of restoration.
Click here for video taken when the Morris fire broke out: