Residents evacuated after building doesn't meet fire codes - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Residents evacuated after building doesn't meet fire codes

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CHESAPEAKE, West Virginia -

Investigators with the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's office tell 13NEWS at this time they can't rule out the possibility that a fire at Cornerstone Apartments in Chesapeake, WV early Wednesday morning was the work of an arsonist.

Residents of the apartment building have been told they need to get out. The fire itself did little damage. But investigators said the building will be shut down until the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's Inspection Division has completed a full investigation.

Assistant State Fire Marshal with the Investigation Division Shawn Alderman described conditions inside the building as "somewhat tattered". He said smoke detectors were present in some of the apartments by not all were working. He also confirmed that there had been several complaints to his agency about the apartment building over the last few weeks.

Building owner, Mike Shultz tells 13 News he is waiting to see what the inspectors tell him he needs to do. He said that to his knowledge all of the apartments had been equipped with hard wired smoke detectors. The Chesapeake Volunteer Fire Department came in and worked with Shultz and his management team in 2003 to do a fire safety inspection. At that time the building was brought up to fire code. Since then a firefighter said there hadn't been much maintenance.

Shultz has owned the building since 1993. He said regardless of the outcome he will likely close the building and tear it down.

The building's landlord, Lee Christenbury was one of several people who were told they needed to evacuate the building Wednesday morning. She sat in her vehicle with her partner Marty Buchannon and their pets and some of their belongings wondering what to do next. "We have no family, nobody," Christenbury said. "Helpless doesn't describe it. I don't even know a word other than devastated."

Christenbury also said that she believes someone set the fire at the apartment building intentionally. "This is all vengeance," she said. "I evicted a guy. He said he was going to burn it down. He said if he couldn't live here nobody could. That is my first suspicion but I can't prove anything."

Christenbury said she has lived at the apartment building for 18 years.

She and a man who said he was in charge of building maintenance gave a statement to the State Fire Marshal investigator Wednesday before leaving to look for a hotel that accepts pets.

We covered living conditions in the Cornerstone Apartments last night, you can find that coverage here.