Morning fire displaces 80 residents
A fire tore through building 8060 at the Westgate Apartments in the Manassas area at 10:16 a.m. Wednesday, leaving 80 residents temporarily displaced.
Apartment community maintenance staff ran into the building in an attempt to extinguish the fire but were unsuccessful, said witnesses.
“People were coming out of the building and trying to put it out” said Victor Dickson, 43, who lives in adjacent building 8062. “The maintenance guys were a big help.”
Resident Brenda Ritenour, 40, of building 8066, said she saw three maintenance men run in to battle the blaze.
Firefighters from Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park extinguished the blaze in short order, said Battalion Chief C. Hadden Culp, Prince William fire and rescue spokesman.
Early indications Wednesday were that the fire spread from the second floor through a utility shaft to the third floor and attic.
To save the roof of the building, firefighters tore down the ceiling’s drywall, dousing the flames from underneath, said Lt. Dave Cooper.
Early on, flames were shooting out of the roof and from vented white bricks on the building’s facade, witnesses said.
“It spread pretty fast to the top floor,” Dickson said.
Melvin Timbers, 39, was washing his car at a business on the opposite side of building 8062 near the fire. He at first thought his sister’s building on the other end of the Westgate complex had caught fire. When he realized that the fire was so close, he was surprised.
Westgate property managers are working with the American Red Cross to feed and shelter the residents displaced by the blaze.
Because a heating line in the damaged building supplied hot water to two other buildings, people from 36 units — 80 in all — are out of a place to live.
“We will certainly find accommodations for them,” said Linda Carlson, vice-president of property management.
The cause is undetermined. Fire marshals are focusing their investigation on a furnace on the second floor of the apartment.
Damages are estimated at $1.5 million. There were no injuries.
Good construction contributed to keeping the roof from erupting in flames earlier, Culp said. The building’s features gave firefighters a “few extra precious minutes,” to keep the fire under control and save much of the structure, Culp said.