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Residents begin recovery process after Regal Apartments fire

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Those who lived at the Regal Apartments in Charleston did not wake up in their own bed Thursday morning. Several mattresses were covered in ash in the rubble that was left behind from Wednesday’s fire.

Regal Apartments resident Joshua Williams and his cat Evee

Joshua Williams, a city of Charleston refuse employee, was driving his recycling truck after 3 p.m. when he got a call that his four-story apartment building went up in flames.

Williams rushed home to rescue his cat, Evee, on the second floor.

“I got there just in time. If I would’ve got there 20-30 minutes later, I probably would’ve lost my cat,” he told MetroNews Thursday while staying at a friend’s house.

Many residents of the 35 units that burned down are staying at the Best Western Hotel in downtown Charleston where the American Red Cross is providing case management services.

Victoria Randolph, who stayed overnight at the hotel, looked down at her feet as she spoke to MetroNews while waiting in line to meet with the Red Cross. She was wearing flip flops in January because she didn’t have time to put on real shoes.

“Didn’t have time to grab phones, some people don’t have shoes, like I’m wearing flip flops. A couple older ladies were asleep. They’re in T-shirts, no jacket, no nothing,” she said.

Randolph just moved to the building two months ago from Ripley with her fiance. She was home at the time of the fire, but said she never heard an alarm go off. It wasn’t until she saw a firefighter that she knew she had to leave immediately.

“The fire alarms go off all the time there for nothing, but this time there was no alarm. I heard the firefighter dragging the hoses up the stairs. I poked my head out and said ‘this is a real one, huh?’ He said ‘yeah, get out’,” she said.

Patriot Services Group, who manages the Regal Apartments, told MetroNews in an email, “the building had a functioning fire detection system and was working properly as of the morning of the fire, confirmed by the independent fire monitoring company and the Fire Marshall.” The statement went on to note, “the building was structurally sound, and we are unaware of any structural or safety related issues.”

PSG said residents are being placed in hotels for at least the next week at no cost while permanent housing solutions are arranged.

“Management is trying to fit us in to other apartment buildings,” Randolph said. “They’re trying to map out how many apartments they have available and then see what they can do.”

Erica Mani, regional CEO of the Red Cross, visited the fire scene Thursday morning and said getting residents back on their feet is priority, but it will take some time.

“We continue to work with them throughout usually a 30-45 day process to make sure they have a true recovery plan and they have somewhere to live permanently,” Mani said.

Case workers are now busy identifying what items need to be replaced, Mani said.

“Identifying the things that they lost, making sure that their prescriptions, medications, life-sustaining needs are being taken care of,” she said.

The Red Cross is also making sure residents’ mail is forwarded to their new location and that they have the financial assistance for items that can’t be replaced.

Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin said the city has been overwhelmed with donations of clothing, hygiene supplies and other items for displaced residents. She said the community is asked to drop off their donations to Mountain Mission at 1620 Seventh Avenue.

“Obviously our focus is on the families and the residents there. Where are you? Where are you going to be? Where do you need to be? What do you need right now?” the mayor said on Thursday’s “580 Live” heard on MetroNews flagship station 580-WCHS in Charleston.

Monetary donations can be made to United Way of Central West Virginia.

Goodwin on Thursday’s show also credited the quick response of Charleston firefighters. She said it could’ve been much worse.

“A lot of fast movement, a lot of technical movements, training and stamina,” Goodwin said. “They just did an amazing job and so did our community.”

As of Thursday morning, much of the building had been torn down. Among the items in the rubble were charred bicycles, a large red mixing bowl for cooking and bed frames.

The smell of smoke still lingered in the air as cars drove by slowly to view what was left of the building.

The Charleston Fire Department said in a press release they received multiple 911 calls reporting large amounts of smoke including visible flames from the roof just before 3:15 p.m. Wednesday. The fire came from the attic.

Firefighters had to demolish the building when the roof started to cave in less than an hour after flames broke out. No one was hurt. An investigation into a cause is underway.

Goodwin said clearing the scene will take some time.

“As they dig out and break down the building, they leave a corner of it up so they can scoop and grab the contents,” she explained.

For Williams, those ‘contents’ were his life.

“It’s kind of hard to fathom all that I lost,” he said. “It’s real shocking and overwhelming. You need everything because everything is gone.”

Williams’ family member set up a GoFundMe page to help him recover his losses. The original goal of $6,000 was reached within a few hours. He said the support has been incredible and that he’s confident he’ll bounce back.

“A couple friends gave me a couple sweaters, shirts and stuff. I’m pretty resilient, so I’ll be okay,” he said.

Source: Local News | WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

Kanawha deputies continue to investigate Snapchat traffic that concerned some parents in Sissonville area

SISSONVILLE, W.Va. — No charges have been filed but the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department is continuing its investigation into some online communication between students associated with Sissonville High School and Sissonville Middle School that concerned some parents in connection with a possible threat of violence.

Investigators said the material was posted on Snapchat. The parents of of several children who posted the material have suggested to deputies “the material was NOT originated to be interpreted as a potential act or threat of violence,” a release from the sheriff’s department said. “The material is alleged to have simply been a task suggested for a student to help manage some personal issues and to assist with this student’s therapy.”

The sheriff’s department is continuing its investigation to make sure it was an isolated incident.

“This case is active, and no charges have been filed at this time; however, the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office wishes to assure the community this is a matter we take very seriously and after a full investigation, the case will be turned over to the Kanawha County Prosecutors Office for further review,” the department said.

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County commission recognizes the service of Priscilla Haden

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County resident Priscilla Haden, a former educator and president of the state Board of Education, has died.

Priscilla Haden

Haden, the wife of the late U.S. District Judge Charles Haden, had a distinguished public career in her own right.

She served on the Kanawha County Board of Education, the state Board of Education, serving as president in 2009. She also served for more than 20 years on the board that oversees the operations of West Virginia International Yeager Airport.

The Kanawha County Commission issued a statement Wednesday praising Haden’s service.

“She’s just someone that you could always trust her judgment,” Commission President Kent Carper said. “She was just such a committed decent, kind lady.”

Carper said Haden’s background as a classroom teacher made her an effective public servant who always came prepared for meetings.

“She always did her homework and she always did what was right for the people of Kanawha County,” Carper said. “Irreplaceable. What a sad loss for the whole community.”

The county commission has ordered state flags to fly at half-staff on county property in Haden’s honor.

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Fire leads to demolition of Charleston apartment building

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Nearly three dozen people are homeless and a Charleston apartment building just a few blocks from the state capitol is no more following a Wednesday afternoon fire.

Crews began to knock down the four-story Regal Apartment building in the 1400 block of Kanawha Blvd. in Charleston Wednesday night after a fire in the building broke out shortly after 3 p.m.

Flames ripped through the Regal Apartment building Wednesday afternoon. (Photo/Jarett Lewis)

Resident Jimmie Jordan told MetroNews he was watching a movie in his fourth floor apartment when he heard something in the hallway.

“I heard like a loud buzzing noise, a cracking noise. I looked out in the hallway and the lights were out and then a cracking noise in the attic and it was on fire,” Jordan said.

There are approximately three dozen apartments in the structure. Charleston firefighters arrived on the scene and evacuated the residents in the building.

Another one of those residents, Aaron Wright, lived in the basement apartments of the complex, and was lucky he got out when he did.

“Some people were nice enough to knock on my door and say ‘Hey, the building’s on fire,'” said Wright.

The roof collapsed about an hour into the blaze. By 7 p.m. demolition crews started to take the building down.

Assistant Chief of the Charleston Fire Department Corey Miller pulled his men out of the building for safety after the fire was unable to be contained.

“There was some bowing in the walls. At that point we knew the building had to come down,” Miller said.

The initial approach for dealing with the fire was an “offensive” one, according to Captain of the Charleston Fire Department David Hodges, but that approach soon changed.

“We started to notice some structural instabilities and the copious amounts of water. That hampered our efforts and led us to take a defensive stance,” Hodges said.

Around 30 residents have been displaced following the fire. Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin said the city is actively working with the Red Cross to find out the needs of the residents.

“We’re working hand in glove with Red Cross right now to make sure everyone has a safe place to be,” Goodwin said. “We’re working to get everybody dinner and breakfast.”

Red Cross volunteer Tom Melone was on the scene, along with many other volunteers, a few hours after the fire had struck. Melone said situations like this, treating residents who’ve been displaced, could take up to a month.

“People lose their drivers license, birth certificates. We’re helping them get their belongings replaced,” said Melone. He’s been a volunteer with Red Cross for 2 years.

Patriot Services Group, a non-profit organization who owns the building, released a statement following the destruction saying, “We are heartbroken for the material loss and the hardship this creates. We are in ongoing communication and collaboration with authorities on the scene and the Red Cross to ensure the immediate wellbeing and housing needs of the displaced residents are met.”

Fire and demo crews are expected to be on the scene and tearing the building down overnight into Thursday morning.

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Amjad tabbed to lead health care services for DCR

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state’s Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Marshall Health have entered into a new partnership to improve health care services in DCR facilities.

With this new partnership, Ayne Amjad, M.D., M.P.H., was named Director of correctional healthcare for the West Virginia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Amjad was also named an assistant professor of medicine at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Amjad to the West Virginia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,” said Jeff Sandy, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security.

In this role, Amjad will be tasked with overseeing the correctional facilities throughout West Virginia which is partnered with contract care provider, Wexford Health.

“Her long-standing commitment to public health and public service is commendable and I know this further partnership with Marshall University will continue to serve our great state,” Sandy added.

Amjad earned her Doctor of Medicine from Marshall University, then completed her Internal Medicine residency at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She also holds a Master of Public Health from West Virginia University.

Amjad spent 10 years in private practice before being appointed by Governor Jim Justice to be the Chief Advisor for the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“By working with DCR and Wexford Health, we hope to ensure quality health care for all individuals in correctional facilities,” Amjad said.

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Two residents treated for smoke inhalation at Britton Street fire

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two people suffered smoke inhalation after an apartment building fire Tuesday morning in Charleston.

Charleston firefighters at the Britton Street fire Tuesday. (Photo courtesy Jerry Waters)

The blaze was reported in the second floor of the block building at 217 Britton Street at around 9:30 a.m.

Charleston firefighters reported heavy smoke when they arrived on the scene.

Authorities said 12 people lived in the building. The two who were treated for smoke inhalation refused to be taken to the hospital.

An investigation into the cause of the fire is underway.

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Military graves vandalized in Fayette County

PAGE, W.Va. — An investigation is underway in Fayette County after at least 13 veterans graves were vandalized earlier this month at a cemetery in the community of Page.

Fayette County Mike Fridley said there were 13 bronze military grave site markers removed and stolen.

The cemetery’s caretaker reported the damage to deputies on Jan. 7.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s department at 304-574-3590, or through our Facebook page “Fayette County Sheriff’s Department,” or you can contact Crime Stoppers of West Virginia at 304-255-STOP.

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Mountaineer Food Bank leaders shine light on hunger issue in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Officials at the Mountaineer Food Bank are addressing an issue that families throughout West Virginia face everyday.

CEO Chad Morrison and Director of Advocacy & Public Policy Caitlin Cook gave more insight about food insecurity and hunger across the state on Tuesday’s “580 Live” heard on 580-WCHS.

“One in five kids that don’t know where their next meal is coming from” Cook said.

Morrison said the current situation families are in is brutal.

“A lot of families are living paycheck to paycheck,” he said.

Cook said that one of the big issues with food insecurity and hunger is that it goes unseen. It is an issue that is not seen well from the public, but is something everyone is struggling with. Cook suggested that one way to see hunger is to tell people’s stories about their struggles with hunger.

“We can end hunger if we start to get at those root causes,” she said.

Officials at the Mountaineer Food Bank are pushing one policy to get passed. Cook said that this policy is to uplift local producers to feel more confident in growing, and selling their products which can go a long way with this fight against hunger.

It is going to take more than just local producers to end the food security and hunger issues in West Virginia, Cook said.

To learn more about the Mountaineer Food Bank you can visit the website at mountaineerfoodbank.org.

Source: Local News | WCHS Network | News • Sports • Business | Charleston, WV

New name thrown in for governor race

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A new name might be added into the mix in the 2024 race for governor.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, who appeared on MetroNews Talkline Monday, said his “tank is still full” as he eyes the democratic nominee for governor.

“If I’m not going to be mayor, there’s no other position to be in in my mind than to be governor,” Williams said.

Williams credits the work he’s done in his city for why he thinks he can lead the state.

“We’re pretty prosperous,” Williams said. We’re starting to create economic opportunity and prosperity within the city.”

The mayor sees a lot of similarities between his current job and being governor and says he’ll trust two components when conducting his decision on whether to run.

“When the data points in the right direction, and my gut is saying it, than we’ll be out and we’ll be running,” said Williams.

Despite not being a part of the majority party, Williams said he has the leadership capacity and still sees a path to becoming governor as a democrat.

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Apartment fire leads to death of Huntington woman

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A Huntington woman has died following a fire inside her apartment.

Patricia Preston, 55, was found by a family member in the apartment Sunday around 8 p.m.

Huntington Police and Fire departments both responded to the apartment located in the 500 block of Washington Avenue.

The family member who discovered Preston’s body called the fire department because they said it had appeared a fire had occurred inside the apartment.

According to the fire department, the fire had burned itself out. Officials have not observed any foul or suspicious play in relation to the fire.

A cause of death has not officially been announced. Preston’s body has been sent to the state Medical Examiner’s Office in Charleston.

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