Tuesday afternoon’s fire in 200 block of West Main Street rendered four apartments unlivable and caused about $150,000 in damage, Richmond Fire Chief Buzzy Campbell said Wednesday.
The fire began on a apartment deck behind the MexiHollywood restaurant, but Campbell said it was too early to specify a cause.
Officials will wait until a state police fire investigator examines the scene and video from surveillance cameras are reviewed before naming a possible cause, the fire chief said.
Preliminary estimates put damage to buildings at $100,000 with loss of $50,000 in contents, Campbell said.
“Condemned” notices posted Tuesday evening on the building were replaced by signs stating the buildings may not be used until inspected and approved.
Loss of life and injuries were averted and damage limited by the fire department’s quick and expert response, business and property owners, as well as an EMS official, said Wednesday.
Within 10 minutes of firefighters’ arrival, the fire was under control, Campbell said, and within 30 minutes the fire was completely extinguished.
Damages and injuries could have been much worse, said Carlos Coyle, Madison County EMS assistant director. As he turned off Keeneland Drive from his office heading downtown in response to the fire, Coyle said he saw a column of black smoke rising and feared the entire block of buildings could be lost.
Firefighters rescued a man and woman who were guests in one of the building’s four apartments facing Water Street. They were in a “back room” with the door closed when they smelled smoke and were afraid to open an external door or attempt to flee because they didn’t know where the fire was, Campbell said.
Within minutes, however, Capt. Janson Hurt was inside the apartment, where he led a team of firefighters to rescue the couple through a Water Street-facing door.
The couple suffered minor smoke inhalation but no burns, Coyle said. They were both alert at the scene, he added. They were taken to the Baptist Health Richmond hospital as a precaution.
Dusty Stevenson, who owns the DSP The Studio on Third Street and lived in one of the affected apartments, told firefighters his cat, Kobe, was trapped inside the building. They were able to save him along with some items from the apartment.
“The fire department did a terrific job,” Coyle said. “We are certainly lucky we’ve got them.”
The MexiHollywood restaurant and apartments in the building will need to clean up and repair a lot of damage before it can pass inspection and reopen, Campbell said.
Rodney Davis, part owner of the building, said Wednesday the apartment tenants have been given lodging in a hotel.
Adjacent buildings suffered relatively minor, non-structural damage that can be repaired, Campbell said.
Emmons and Company, a political consulting firm, has occupied a building next to the fire for 15 years. Owner Dale Emmons said his office was not condemned but could not be used Wednesday.
“It’s full of smoke, and the windows are broken out,” he said. “The kitchen isn’t useable. It’s just chaos.”
However, Emmons said he was thankful that his business wasn’t destroyed.
“These same sort of fires have caused devastating losses. My 19th century vintage building is still standing, and it’s thanks to (the fire department),” he said.