FORT ASHBY, W.Va. - An early Friday morning apartment complex fire claimed the lives of three Fort Ashby residents, authorities said.
The victims, who were not identified, were located in two separate apartments on the second floor of the eight-unit complex that also housed Cindi's Restaurant and Sav-A-Lot Pharmacy.
Mineral County sheriff's deputies and neighbors rescued several victims from the burning wood-frame structure prior to the arrival of firefighters. At least one couple who were standing on an awning were reportedly brought to safety by a nearby resident who backed his truck up to the building.
The structure, located at the intersection of state Routes 28 and 46, is owned by John Daskal and Denver DeHaven.
Daskal, who lives in a basement apartment and is also the pharmacist at Sav-A-Lot, was reportedly awakened by deputies, and escaped the fire unharmed.
Fort Ashby Fire Chief Greg Long said his first-arriving crews found "heavy fire" coming from the second floor hallway following the 2:30 a.m. alarm. The building was constructed in the 1940s and formerly housed Ratcliff's Market for nearly 50 years.
Heavy smoke bellowed over the community as firefighters using three ladder trucks worked to control the blaze that broke through the roof in two separate areas.
At least one firefighter was taken to the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center for an ankle injury, Long said.
Fort Ashby volunteer firefighter LeRoy Smith, who lives adjacent to the complex, said he helped a man who had jumped from a rear second-story window. "It looked like fireworks going off back there," said Smith.
It took more than 50 firefighters from three counties about two hours to contain the fire, which is under investigation by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's Office.
In addition to Fort Ashby, firefighters from Short Gap, Springfield, Patterson Creek, Fountain, Wiley Ford, Ridgeley, Keyser, Romney, Piedmont, LaVale, Bowling Green and Cresaptown responded along with a paramedic unit from the Cumberland Fire Department.
Mineral County Medical Examiner Chris Guynn responded to the scene along with the American Red Cross and Potomac Edison. Fort Ashby Volunteer Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary provided drinks to volunteers. Fire crews remained at the scene as of 8 a.m.