West Virginia Grease Fire Leaves 14 Families Homeless After Firefighters Find Violations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A grease fire in an apartment building left 14 families homeless after numerous violations spotted by firefighters prompted city officials to declare the structure unsafe.

The fire occurred Tuesday night as a tenant was cooking in the 14-apartment building in Charleston's Kanawha City neighborhood. Two apartments were damaged but no one was injured, Charleston Fire Lt. Ken Tyree said.

City Building Commissioner Tony Harmon closed the building after firefighters reported seeing raw sewage in one apartment, open electrical wiring, unvented space heaters and water heaters, holes in walls between apartments, trash and debris.

Only two smoke detectors were in the building and neither worked, Harmon said.

He said tenants were ordered to leave because the building was unfit to live in. They cannot return until the violations are corrected.

''It's just a run-down building,'' said Bobby Doss, who has lived in the building for the past six years.

Doss said he has coped with leaky faucets, overflowing toilets and other problems.

''When I walked on the floors I felt like it was about to give,'' he said.

The building is owned by Richard Risk, who also owns a grocery in Kanawha City.

''I don't know what I'm going to do. I didn't know it was as bad as they said it was,'' Risk said Wednesday. ''I'm thinking about tearing it down.''

The Red Cross placed seven families in a hotel, while the others are staying with relatives, said Scott Jarrett, a spokesman for the relief agency.

''I hope the best for my tenants. They're marginal people, they work minimum wage jobs and have limited income,'' Risk said. ''This is a bad situation. Right now, I feel real bad for my tenants; they were good folks.''