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Fire wrecks Martinsburg apartments

June 03, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Four people were temporarily homeless Monday night when a grease fire in a 100-year-old North Queen Street building damaged five apartments.

Martinsburg Fire Chief Phil Martin said the accidental fire began shortly before midnight in a second-floor apartment occupied by Leroy Newell at 224 N. Queen St. Firefighters were called to the scene at 11:57 p.m.

Newell was apparently heating up a pan of grease for cooking when the fire broke out, Martin said. Newell ran to Martinsburg City Hall, 232 N. Queen St., and notified police.

"A couple of police officers went up to the apartment and were actually able to get a person out of the building who was on the third floor," Martin said.

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Tiffany Cain was evacuated by police without injury. One occupant in the first-floor apartment also escaped without injury. Her roommate wasn't home.

The fire has shut down the apartment building. Martin said the building is uninhabitable.

"We have professional people coming in tomorrow morning to check and see what needs to be done," said Blaine W. Smiley, co-owner of the apartment building and the Chelsea Bagel Bakery next door, which was damaged by smoke. "Hopefully, we'll be able to put it back in its original state because the building is historic."

The four people living there have been moved to other apartments that Smiley owns.

"We were able to relocate them. It's only fair when someone is put out like that," Smiley said. "The most important thing is nobody was hurt."

A spokeswoman at the Martinsburg office of the American Red Cross said Tuesday that the fire victims would receive aid. The Red Cross meets immediate needs of disaster victims, such as food, clothing, shelter, lost prescriptions and eyeglasses.

Although exact figures aren't available, Martin said the damage will likely be $150,000 to $200,000.

The Chelsea Bagel Bakery, which was closed Tuesday, had odor and smoke damage, Smiley said. City Hall was smoky early Tuesday morning but not damaged by the fire. City business was not interrupted.

Smiley praised the speed of authorities for saving what they could and for getting Cain out.

"If that fire had made it to either side, it could've gone over to City Hall," Smiley said. "If it had gotten into the next building, could you imagine how the whole block would've been?"

Smiley said the Martinsburg Fire Department and other responding companies were efficient and had the blaze under control immediately.

"I think the public needs to know if nothing else about Martinsburg, we have a fantastic fire department," Smiley said.

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