Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

January 9, 2014

Cause of Tazewell New Year’s Eve fire under investigation

TAZEWELL, Va. — Investigators are still seeking the cause of a New Year’s Eve fire that gutted a downtown Tazewell building, and working to determine the structure’s fate.

A building housing GuRu’s Then & Now Thrift Store, Becker’s Jewel Box & Diamond, a law office and three apartments burned the evening of Dec. 31, 2013. The apartments’ occupants fled the building and firefighters managed to keep the blaze from spreading to neighboring structures.

Firefighters and city officials started inspecting the burned structure Jan. 1 to determine whether it should be demolished. The blaze’s extreme heat damaged masonry and the building’s steel beams.

“No decision has been made so far,” Police Chief DeWitt Cooper said Wednesday. “We’re still trying to figure it out.”

To protect the public, the eastbound side of Main Street in front of the building has been closed, Cooper said. The rear of the building has been taped off to keep people from getting too close. Ice that formed near the building while firefighters battled the blaze is also a concern.

“We’ve got it taped off, just for safety,” he said. “If something comes down, we don’t want anybody to get hurt.”

A resident who lived in one of the apartments said during the fire that the building was heated by coal, but the fire did not start near the furnaces.

Investigator Michelle Conklin with the Tazewell Police Department, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and insurance investigators were still working Wednesday to discover the fire’s origin, Cooper said.

“So far, it is undetermined,” he stated.

Firefighters from the town of Tazewell Fire Department, the Bluefield, Va., Fire Department, Richlands Fire Department, Clearfork Fire Department and other agencies contained the blaze on New Year’s Eve.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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