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Cause of Morris fire still unknown

Aug. 07, 2014 @ 11:40 PM

HUNTINGTON -- The exact cause of a fire on the roof of the seven-story Morris Building that caused a major scare on 4th Avenue in Huntington is still undetermined, as is the dollar amount of damage done.

Huntington Fire Chief Carl Eastham said the department is working with insurance investigators to determine the exact cause, though they are certain the July 27 fire originated in a structure that housed elevator mechanisms on the roof.

Phil Cline, the operating member of River Cities Properties LLC, which owns the building, said he is still evaluating what to do with the structure that housed two restaurants, a few other businesses and several residents.

"I haven't gotten any indication on anything," he said. "I've been calling the insurance people and they've been calling me, we haven't really talked. They aren't letting us put a roof back on yet, and we want to get a roof on because of the water coming down into the building from the rain."

The building suffered very little fire damage because of a concrete sub-roof that was below the surface where the fire started.

It suffered heavy damage from water used to douse the fire, and no one is allowed inside the building at the moment, Cline said.

Eastham said a sprinkler system would have controlled the blaze, and Cline said he was in the process of having a sprinkler system installed when the fire occurred.

"We had already made a payment on what they had done," he said. "Now we're trying to determine what to do in terms of restoration. We have to determine what the insurance company is going to pay us.

"Structurally, the building is top notch. We're probably going to have to redesign the building."

Eastham said any redesign will have to incorporate a sprinkler system and other fire preventive measures.

In accordance with federal and state law, all buildings more than three stories tall have to have sprinkler systems installed by 2017.

Various agencies assisted the Huntington Fire Department in containing the blaze and securing the building.

Follow reporter Ben Fields on Twitter @BenFieldsHD.

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