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Arson suspected in early morning apartment fire

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Arson is suspected in an early morning fire at a Chesapeake apartment.

It appeared someone had piled chairs, a couch, a tire and other debris against a wall outside the building and set the items on fire, said C.W. Signman, Kanawha County deputy emergency services director.

"If it's a dry couch and a dry room, you can understand how a cigarette could cause a fire, but a couch outside and nothing around it to set it on fire - the likelihood of arson is high," Sigman said.

The fire broke out about 1:30 a.m. at 12600 Venable Ave. The apartment building is near the fire station, Sigman said, and firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze quickly.

The fire destroyed part of a stairwell and the outside wall, but damage was minimal.

No one was hurt, although the smoke detection system wasn't working - one resident ran through the halls warning residents. Firefighters went room to room waking up residents.

The Red Cross arranged for a dozen people to spend the night in a local hotel.

Sigman said a smoke detection system was present, but didn't seem to be hooked up.

"One of the firefighters went to check on the fire detectors and pulled it from the wall to look at it," he said. "And it just pulled right off the wall. It didn't appear to be hooked to anything."

The exit signs and emergency lighting also weren't working.

Sigman said that in addition to the investigation into the cause of the fire, he had asked the Fire Marshal's office to investigate those fire code violations.

Officials were able to contact the building's owner, who said the building was in foreclosure.


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