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Huntington fire leaves some in limbo

Herald-Dispatch photo by Lori Wolfe Leslie Comer talks about the uncertainty of the future of her business which was located inside the Morris Building in Huntington. The Morris building was damaged by fire on Sunday.
Herald-Dispatch photo by Lori Wolfe
Leslie Comer talks about the uncertainty of the future of her business which was located inside the Morris Building in Huntington. The Morris building was damaged by fire on Sunday.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — If there’s any silver lining to the fire that burned the top of the Morris Building on Sunday, it’s that no one was seriously hurt, displaced residents and business owners said. The challenging part is that there are people now looking for a place to live and work, as the entire building suffered serious water damage.

As of Monday morning, residents and employees of the businesses in the Morris Building, at 841 4th Ave., were wondering what the future would hold for the structure that has been either their home or the place where they earned a livelihood.

The building has a handful of residents and also houses Backyard Pizza, The Peddler, Developmental Therapy Center and Byard Insurance & Financial Services. The building manager declined comment about the building’s future, and its owner could not be reached Monday for comment.

“We’re trying to see where we are and pick up the pieces so we can move forward,” said Leslie Comer-Porter, executive director of Developmental Therapy Center, a nonprofit that employs 22 people and serves hundreds of children in need of physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy. The center occupies the entire third floor of the building, performing some services on site but others in homes and schools.

“We definitely know we can’t open out of our current home and are looking for a temporary home,” Comer-Porter said. “We don’t want kids to go without needed services.”

Morris Building residential tenants T.J. Witten, Wayne Williams and Eric Adkins were provided assistance from the Salvation Army, including a two-night stay at the Best Western in Barboursville, but were unaware Monday morning where they would go after that. Another tenant, Rick Sneed, who has worked maintenance at Pullman Plaza Hotel for more than 20 years, stayed at Pullman on Sunday night.

All were told they’d be able to get back in the building and retrieve items Monday afternoon, which is a relief, Adkins said. He lived there with his father and was hoping to salvage some of his father’s furniture and some memories, such as pictures of his three children and heirlooms from his grandmother, who recently died.

Adkins said he was given a miner’s hat for the dark stairwells and trudged through about a half inch of water to get to his fifth floor apartment.

“When you go in there, you don’t even know where to start. It’s a rough experience…

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