HINTON, W.Va. -- About 50 residents of Hinton were displaced when fire tore through almost a whole city block early Tuesday.
Hinton police arrested Billy Joe Gill, 25, of Hinton on charges of first-degree arson, Chief Derek Snavely said.
Residents living in 10 apartments on Temple Street barely escaped with their lives after fire tore through the old brick row houses about 2 a.m., Snavely said.
The Red Cross will place the residents in a hotel in the Hinton area until they can find other housing, City Manager Cris Meadows said.
Gill also is suspected of setting another home on fire about three blocks from the apartments, he said. That fire occurred about half an hour before the one that ravaged the apartments, Snavely said.
No injuries were reported.
"It's just amazing no one was hurt," Snavely said.
A cold icy rain fell on the remains of the five buildings that housed the apartment units as city officials and residents met with representatives from the Red Cross.
The buildings sat closely together and were destroyed, Snavely said.
Now, blackened brick shells sit along Temple Street near the center of town for all to see, he said.
The house on 5th Avenue that was the site of the first fire also was mostly destroyed.
Officials of the small town must figure out how to help the displaced residents as well as deal with the burned structures.
"I just don't know what we're going to do yet," the chief said.
"This is just awful," the city manager said.
Meadows and other town officials are working to contact the owners of the apartments, he said. At least one owner has been contacted, and he told Meadows he did not have the buildings insured.
"They'll have to be demolished eventually," Meadows said. "But right now we just have them roped off."
Officers will increase patrols by the burned apartments to make sure people are not trying to enter the dangerous structures, he said. However, the department has only six sworn officers.
"It's going to be difficult," Snavely said. "It's right in the middle of town, and kids are going to be walking by it every day."
The call about the 5th Avenue fire came in about 1:25 a.m., Snavely said. Officers arrived on the scene with Hinton firefighters, and the house was fully involved, he said.
The owner told officers she believed Gill was responsible, he said.
"She said she believed Billy Gill had set fire to her house because he had just been there a few minutes prior and they had argued," Snavely said.