Three homes damaged in St. James Ave. fire

Published 10:38 pm Thursday, October 8, 2009

Suffolk Fire and Rescue and its Fire Marshall’s office were on the scene Thursday afternoon of a three-alarm fire on St. James Avenue that involved at least three homes and displaced at least six people.

Fire marshals were joined by members of the Tidewater Regional Arson Panel as they attempted to find evidence that would lead them to the cause of the early morning blaze.

Investigators believe the fire started in a vacant home at 119 St. James Ave. at about 4:30 a.m., according to Suffolk spokesperson Debbie George. The fire then spread to homes on both sides of the original blaze.

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The home where the fire originated ultimately collapsed. It was owned by Garcia Development LLC, according to recent real estate assessments posed online by the City Assessor’s office. The house at 121 St. James Ave. lost most of its roof and showed extensive damage to its upper floors. The house at 117 St. James was scorched and appeared to have been subject to flames in its interior.

By 6:30 a.m., the fire had been brought under control, George said. No injuries had been reported. About 40 firefighters responded to the three-alarm blaze. At noon, firefighters were still on the scene, occasionally putting water on the smoking rubble.

The street in front of the homes was closed, and an empty lot behind the home where the fire started showed deep ruts where a fire truck had come from Linden Road to fight the blaze from behind the home.

Smoke continued to hover in the neighborhood throughout the morning.

A total of six people in the occupied homes were displaced, but none were injured, George stated in a press release. By noon, the Red Cross was working with them to find them temporary housing, she added.

The fire shut down power to about 170 customers, according to Dominion Power, which had crews on the scene at 11 a.m. working to restore electricity to the area.

The city announced Thursday morning that Morgan Memorial Library and the Suffolk Voter Registrar’s office were both without power and phone service as a result of the nearby fire. Utility service to both agencies had been restored by 12:30, and the library was reopened.

Check back later on or in Friday’s edition of the newspaper for more details.