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Fire destroys Morgantown home, displaces WVU students

A South Park home was destroyed, seven people displaced, three people injured, and one person arrested after a three-alarm fire engulfed a Morgantown residence early Monday morning.

Firefighters responded to the blaze along Maryland Street shortly before 6 a.m. Monday.

“The fire occurred on Maryland, off South Walnut Street, at an apartment with tenants in it,” Morgantown Fire Chief Mark Caravasos said.  “The call came in about 5:45 a.m. and our crews were on scene most of the morning.”

Flames shot out of windows and caused about $125,000 in damage, Caravasos said.  The cause remains unknown, but investigators do not consider the fire suspicious, the chief said.  The building has officially been condemned.

Of the seven residents, three were taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital for undisclosed injuries, according to the Fire Department.

WVU spokesman John Bolt said three of the residents were WVU students.  Corey Neidhart, 22, of Wheeling, Charles Pell, 23, also of Wheeling, and Zac Cholak, 26, of Canonsburg, Pa. were in the home at 321 Maryland when it went up in flames.  WVU Students Affairs is working with the students to find alternative housing.

Meanwhile, another resident identified as 23-year-old Derek Blankenship was arrested after police say he interfered with firefighters and police.  Blankenship, a former WVU student, faces charges of obstruction of a public officer, disorderly conduct and public intoxication.

Blankenship is free on $325 bail.

Caravasos said firefighters spent hours at the scene working to put out the blaze.

“Initial reports came in of a large fire and there was a large body of fire showing from the rear of the building when crews arrived on scene,” Caravasos said.  “They got a real good knock down on the fire.  They got access to the building and were able to make sure everybody was out of the building.  They got a great attack on this fire, and actually the structure is still standing.”

Victory Holdings, a Morgantown-based company, owns the building.  Working smoke detectors played a major role in getting the residents out of the building, Caravasos said.

“The building did have smoke detectors and alerted the occupants of the fire in the building,” Caravasos said.  “As for the cause, we’re still looking in to that.”

The fire marshal is now investigating.


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