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Posted on Tue. Jan. 08, 2013 - 12:31 am EDT

11 families lose their homes

Huntington apartment fire takes 6 hours to control

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HUNTINGTON — It took about 45 firefighters nearly six hours to extinguish an apartment fire in Huntington on Monday after the blaze burned from the basement through the roof of a three-story complex.

Huntington Fire Department crews received a call about a fire alarm at Carriage Place Apartments, 600 Bartlett St., about 8:45 a.m. Monday, officials said.

As crews arrived a few minutes later, heavy smoke was billowing from the west attic of Building 13, Deputy Fire Chief Leon Hurlburt said.

“Crews went in right away and tried to knock it down out of the attic, not knowing a lot of the fire was below them,” he said.

The 12-unit building was home to 11 families. All were able to escape from the building shortly after the fire began and there were no injuries, Hurlburt said.

Although he wasn’t sure how many people lived in the apartment, all would have to find new housing at least temporarily, if not permanently, Hurlburt said.

Greg Tackett, who lives in the apartment across the road from Building 13, said he was walking out the door to run errands when he saw fire crews arriving and smelled smoke.

Tackett watched as crews from Huntington, Roanoke, Andrews and several other departments battled the blaze.

“I saw this man and woman carrying a baby out of there,” Tackett said. “It was so cold and (the man) was hardly wearing any clothes.”

Tackett said he also heard several short “pop, pop, pop” noises at one point. A police officer at the scene later explained to him the sound was caused by ammunition in one of the apartments catching fire and exploding.

“I’ve lived here for 50 years and I can say this is the worst fire I’ve seen,” Tackett said. “I’m stunned.”

By the time the fire was extinguished, nearly 5 feet of water from fire hoses had collected on the lower floor of the building and the roof on the west end was completely gone, Hurlburt said.

Several times throughout the day, crews had to poke holes in the floor to allow the water to drain to the basement to keep the floors safe enough to walk on, causing the basement to flood, he said.

By 3 p.m., the fire was contained and crews began clearing the apartments – tossing singed couches, charred refrigerators and personal belongings onto the lawn.

“It could take awhile before we really know what happened here. We’ll need to get in here over the next couple days,” Hurlburt said as he pulled off his helmet and took a step back to examine the building’s remains. “The big plus on this whole thing is no one was hurt. Every one was able to get out safely.”

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