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Suspicious fire guts West Side apartment complex

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A suspicious fire devastated a West Side apartment building Monday morning and left several people homeless.

The blaze sent flames dozens of feet into the air and left a shell of a building standing.

"There is suspicion when you get such an intense fire in the middle of the day," said Chris Cooper, shift commander for the Charleston Fire Department. "Usually a fire would be detected before it gets to that magnitude."

No people were reported injured, but two dogs were rescued from the flames. A third dog was unaccounted for.

Cooper called the rescue of one dog "dramatic," saying that teams "pretty much brought the dog back to life."

The dog, a 5-month-old female pit bull named Neela, wasn't breathing when pulled from the fire. It was revived with the help of an oxygen mask and sent to a local veterinarian's office, where it was expected to make a full recovery.

Neela's owner, Autumn Mooney, 15, had slept in Monday morning and ran late for school. She was on her way there on a bus when her sister, Patricia Ford, called to tell her about the fire.

"I had them stop the bus and let me off, then took another bus back," she said.

They were standing outside the building Monday, watching firefighters work to douse the blaze.

Ford and Mooney share an apartment with their mother and Ford's boyfriend. Ford said it seemed they had lost everything, including money she was saving for Christmas presents.

She was sitting down to watch a movie when a neighbor came by to warn her about the fire. She ran outside in a panic, she said, and then realized that she wouldn't be able to return to rescue any of her belongings or the dog.  

"I got nervous," she said. "I didn't know what to do."  

Charles Mosley lives in another apartment in the building. He was working at the Washington Street KFC when he got word of the fire from a friend. He ran home and into the building, where firefighters let him call to his dog, a 2-year-old pitbull named Little Mama.

 "It was so smoky I couldn't see anything, but I called her and she came," Mosley said.

The dog ran to him and escaped the blaze unscathed. Within the hour, she was as frisky and lively as ever, and Mosley had to keep her from jumping into the laps of the other onlookers outside.

Mosley lives in an apartment with his cousin. Now, he said, they're looking for family they can stay with while they recover.

"Hopefully everybody gets the help they need," he said.

The fire was reported a little after 11 a.m. Cooper said it took "basically the whole fire department " to respond. It was a complicated operation, he said, because the building was so large, and the fire was so intense.

The building, an older one on Beuhring Avenue, has eight units. It was the site of a murder last year; one man was sentenced for bludgeoning one of his roommates to death and severely injuring another.

Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.maunz@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.


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