Martinsville fire sparks reminder from city's fire chief

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MARTINSVILLE (WSLS10) - Flames continued to erupt at 800 Madison St. last night nearly three hours after firefighters first arrived on scene.

In the daylight today, the damage became clearer.

"We haven't looked at the tax assessment part yet, but I'd say quite easily a half a million dollar loss," Martinsville Fire Chief, Teddy Anderson, stated in reference to the destruction.

Charles  Davis lives in the apartment complex behind the building and saw the fire.

"I just looked out my window there and it seemed kind of bright. So, I said 'the apartment's on fire,'" Davis recalled as he walked past the building on his way to the store.

He says he doesn't have renter's insurance, but seeing the destruction and knowing that many of the tenants also didn't have insurance makes him want to get some. "Yeah, sure does."

Chief Anderson said the building is a total loss, but the damage could've potentially been less if the residents in the apartment where the fire started had called 911 immediately instead of trying to put the fire out themselves.

"If you have a situation like this, a fire breaks out, we understand the concern but we're more concerned about you and your family," Chief Anderson emphasized. "Just get out and call 911 from the outside."

Firefighters had trouble getting enough water to fight the fire.

The building sits at one of the highest points in the city and the city's aging water system only has enough power to supply the hydrants there with 250 gallons a minute.

Chief Anderson says they needed 500 gallons a minute, so they had to hook up to additional hydrants and call in mutual aid.

"The system itself is intact and with the location of the area where we're at the height of the area poses a challenge in itself. In order to rectify that, we'd be in the millions of dollars," he explained.

As far as the cause, he would only say that he feels confident that the cause has been identified and that due to the fact that the investigation is still ongoing he didn't want to say what the cause was.

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