Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

January 2, 2014

Officials question structural stability of building severely damaged by fire

TAZEWELL, Va. — A downtown building gutted by a major fire smoldered Wednesday while firefighters extinguished hot spots and city officials started calculating whether it was still structurally sound.

Tazewell firefighters returned four times Wednesday to the building on West Main Street when the fire rekindled. A blaze that was discovered at approximately 5:50 p.m. Tuesday gutted the structure. Parts of the burned interior continued to smoke and sky was visible through what little was left of the roof.

The building housing GuRu’s Then & Now Thrift Store, Becker’s Jewel Box & Diamond, a law office and three apartments was severely damaged Tuesday evening by fire. The Town of Tazewell Fire Department returned to the scene four times Wednesday when the fire rekindled. Neighboring buildings had smoke and water damage, but they were not destroyed by the blaze.

“We had a fight last night, but it was a success story,” said Lt. Jason Kiser, a Tazewell firefighter. “There wasn’t the first injury, firefighter or civilian.”

Kiser pointed out cracks in the brick walls and described how the building’s steel beams were distorted by the heat Tuesday night.

“That’s a sign there’s been serious structural damage,” he added.

Fire Chief Jason Roberts looked at the damage and said the concern now is whether the building is structurally sound. City officials will be determining whether the building should be torn down to prevent a hazard to public safety.

“We start on it first thing (Thursday) morning to see what we can do,” said Donny Pruitt, code inspector for the town of Tazewell.

Neighbors visited their businesses Wednesday to start assessing the damage. Ann VanDyke, who manages Van’s Computer & Gift Shop for her mother-in-law Bettye VanDyke, said there had been water and smoke damage, and merchandise will have to be moved.

Agencies including the Bluefield,Va., Fire Department, Richlands Fire and Rescue, and the Clearfork Fire Department helped contain the blaze Tuesday.

Fire Chief Jim Hardy of the Bluefield,Va., department said tankers had to be used to bring in extra water. His department’s platform truck, which managed to have a dedicated hydrant, is capable of spraying 1,500 gallons of water a minute.

One bystander who declined to give her name was shooting photographs of the burned building.

“It’s a shame, isn’t it?” she said. “Isn’t it terrible? These old buildings have so much history.”

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