Apartment Building Fire Leaves Residents Homeless

Multiple residents were displaced after fire gutted an apartment building Tuesday at the intersection of National and Trestlework Rogers roads, bringing firefighters from around the Ohio Valley to battle the relentless flames.

Valley Grove Volunteer Fire Department was the first to respond around 6 a.m. According to Assistant Fire Chief John Gearry, the fire started in the building’s basement, where the electrical breakers are located.

Soon after the fire was reported, fire trucks from Triadelphia, as well as Claysville and West Alexander in Pennsylvania, joined the effort. Valley Grove police and emergency personnel from multiple agencies also responded.

Gearry said the structure was more than 100 years old and had multiple uses over its lifespan. The years of remodeling and additions created areas where the fire was contained – such as behind walls and above false ceilings – that were difficult for firefighters to reach.

“The idea is to get the wet stuff on the red stuff, but we have to be able to reach it first,” Gearry said.

The scene was frantic with more than 20 firefighters and multiple trucks present. Hoses snaked along the pavement as water washed down the roadway. Traffic traveling west on National Road was halted.

Motorists driving east either turned around or were directed onto Trestlework Rogers Road.

A Triadelphia firefighter at the top of a ladder truck was nearly engulfed in clouds of smoke as he handled a hose shooting water down onto the structure’s roof. The roof ultimately collapsed, and water continually cascaded over the steps at the front of the building and into the street.

Ohio County Emergency Management Agency Director Lou Vargo said the number of hoses simultaneously pouring water onto the structure affected water pressure. Water officials were promptly notified, he said, and the pressure was increased.

Fire departments from adjacent counties, including Marshall and Belmont, were still being dispatched to the scene three hours after the blaze was reported. About 10 water tankers arrived to provide firefighters with extra ammunition.

Crews declared the fire extinguished around 11 a.m., about five hours after it was first reported.

The building tenants watched helplessly in the snow as the windows of their former homes spewed smoke that was produced from their burning belongings inside.

Kimberly Litman said the building was in her family for generations. It was owned by her grandfather and father before she and her husband, Barry, bought it in 2000.

The Litmans sold the building around 2005 to its current owner, Billy Martin. They still rent storage space from Martin in the building’s basement – where the fire started – and were distressed over the destruction of their possessions.