West Virginia Apartment Fire Ruled Arson

ELKINS, W.Va. (AP) -- A fire that caused $500,000 in damage to an apartment complex and left more than three dozen people homeless has been ruled an arson.

The fire broke out at about 9 p.m. Friday at the three-story Allegheny Apartments in Elkins. Seventeen of the building's 19 apartments were occupied but all of the residents escaped without injury, said Richard Holland, the building's owner.

``It was an incendiary fire,'' Kim O'Brien, a spokeswoman for the Fire Marshal's Office, said Monday.

O'Brien did not have details about the fire but said investigators ``have some pretty good leads.''

``They do have potential suspects,'' she said.

Part of the building, which was constructed around 1900, was saved but ``it's going to take some considerable renovations and it may or may not be salvageable,'' Elkins Fire Chief Mitch Tacy said Monday.

Flames were shooting out of a window on the first floor of the building's northwestern end when firefighters arrived. Firefighters from the Beverly, Junior, Belington and Leading Creek fire departments helped the Elkins department in battling the fire.

The building had numerous ``void spaces'' that made it difficult to contain the fire, Tacy said.

``The guys had to work really hard,'' he said.

Tacy said the fire caused $500,000 damage and left about 40 people homeless.

The Fire Marshal's Office has offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist, O'Brien said.