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Former Morris Occupant Reveals “in the Kitchen You Can See the Sky…”
Fire Chief Carl Eastham had told Williams, “ it looks like the building might be coming down,” noting that the firefighters had gone into “defensive” posture. Plan B had been determined too --- Save the four story Hibachi (formerly Star Furniture) building next door at 839 Fourth Avenue and the Ink tattoo shop on Ninth Street Plaza.
However, Eric Lewis, one of the owners of Huntington Ink , has a scary story. He lived “as high as anyone lived” in the Morris Building.
His roommate had been awakened sometime between 8:15 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning when firefighters “busted his bedroom door down with an axe.” Lewis said that his roommate was likely the first person evacuated from the burning structure. “We were the first [apartment] they probably went to.”
No one lived on the seventh floor, but occupants and businesses utilized the lower floors.
“It’s ruined. If you walk over there right now there is water dripping down. There is no roof on the building.”
Actually that assessment is only partially true. Chief Eastham indicated that the fire ravaged ravaged a parapet roof, located about 4 feet above the concrete roof. The parapet roof fell. The chief believes that a new roof and elevator are the major elements damaged in the fire. He estimated $250,000-$500,000 in damage.
Still , Lewis revealed, “The water came down and dripped through the walls. When my roommate walked in to our apartment (after the fire) it was like a waterfall on our flat screen (TV).
Lewis did not visit his former apartment on the Sixth floor, but his girlfriend did. “The seventh floor [where no one resided] collapsed and came down through our ceiling. Everything is completely destroyed. The windows are busted out. My bathroom has no ceiling and in the kitchen you can see the sky.”
Another resident told WSAZ that one apartment looked like a "warzone" after the blaze. Only clothing could be salvaged. Another resident told the Herald Dispatch about trudging through a half foot of water wearing a miner's hat. Portions of the fifth floor apartment "didn't even get touched," Eric Adkins told the newspaper.
Items retrieved from Lewis' sixth floor apartment “smell like ash, but were not burnt.”
Mike Paul, Huntington Ink’s co-owner, lavished praise upon fire department. “They were here in seconds. If they had not been that fast, more would have been on fire.’
Both Paul and Lewis agreed with Eastham’s speculation that the size of the fire on the top of the Morris Building could have taken out the entire block without the responsiveness from Huntington firefighters and surrounding volunteer departments which put water on it from every direction.
“The firefighters are awesome. People in Huntington probably take that service for granted but we need to make donation to help these guys out . A lot of them are [from] volunteer departments.
The Morris Building, formerly a hotel, did not have sprinklers or fire alarms. However, it had been constructed as “fireproof.” Fire Chief Eastham agreed that closed in stairways and concrete floors prevented a worse catastrophe.
Lewis explained that “fireproof or not” the fire above burned “so long” that damage impacted the occupied apartments. “Ceilings collapsed, not the floors,” Lewis said.
Eastham believes that the building will not be demolished, stressing water damage and damage from the elevator mechanism falling from the penthouse into the shaft.
Ink suffered water damage on the floor, tiles and ceiling.
“The windows of the Morris Building blew “ and that damaged our building, Lewis said. “The glass punctured our ceiling.”
“Our idea will thrive and prosper,” Jordan said, adding we did the rooms and everything ourselves. “We won’t be down for long.”
Although the passion and heroics to save the structure has been credited to Huntington and regional firefighters as well as other first responders, council and an audience member asked: Why are not sprinklers required in these high rise buildings. Answer: A state grandfather clause that pertains to percentage of new construction. In fact, a council speaker reminded administrators and council members of the loss of life at Emmons Junior.
Councilman David Ball reminded that a state statute now mandates that all buildings over three stories tall must have sprinklers and other fire suppressant safeguards by 2017.