Former residents, firefighters mark one year anniversary of Regal Apartments fire in Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The lot where the former Regal Apartments in Charleston once stood sits vacant one year after a fire destroyed the four-story building along the Kanawha Boulevard.

Former Regal Apartments resident Joshua Williams and his cat Evee

The fire broke out shortly after 3 p.m. on Jan. 25, 2023. No one was hurt.

Former resident Joshua Williams was at work when he got the call that his apartment building was on fire. He raced up to the second floor to rescue his cat. About 30 minutes later, flames from the attic would make it down to his unit, destroying everything he owned.

“It was a little bit of a traumatic experience. I’ve got a little PTSD from that,” Williams told MetroNews during a phone interview this week. “Overall, I’m doing pretty good.”

Williams is in a new home today and said he was able to replace most things except for sentimental items.

“Some things my mom had gotten for me. Some things my paster gave to be me that can’t be replaced like things he got from a trip to Jerusalem and stuff,” he said.

The roof collapsed about an hour after the fire started and the building was demolished shortly after that.

The Charleston Fire Department ruled the cause of the blaze as “undetermined.” Cpt. David Hodges said he remembers there being a large response.

“We had over 50 firefighters there within minutes that day and it still wasn’t enough,” he said.

Flames seen from the top roof of the Regal building on Jan. 25, 2023. (Photo/Jarett Lewis-MetroNews)

Hodges said once the flames got into the rubberized roofing, which has a petroleum base, the fire continued to fuel itself. He said even after a detailed investigation, which included interviews, scene analysis, and privately owned video surveillance, it’s still a mystery as to what started the blaze.

The situation could’ve been much worse had the fire broke out at 3 a.m. compared to 3 p.m., Hodges said.

“There is no good time for a fire in a home or apartment; however, this was a good time. It was still daylight hours. Folks weren’t asleep. Had this been nighttime hours, it could’ve definitely been a different outcome,” he said.

The Regal was constructed in 1930 and was owned by Patriot Services Group. There were 35 occupied units. It’s believed about 50 people lived there.

The United Way of Central West Virginia, along with the American Red Cross, worked to provide support and collect donations for new furniture for residents who lost their homes immediately after the fire.

Some residents were placed in hotels, including at the Best Western in downtown Charleston, at no cost while they searched for permanent housing solutions.

Williams said it took him a while to receive his security deposit back.

The Regal Apartment building was demolished just hours after the fire began. Carrie Hodousek/MetroNews

“Luckily, I had insurance, but the Regal took forever just to let people get their deposits back,” he said. “It was just a pain dealing with those people and that company.”

Williams is still amazed no one was seriously injured or killed in the fire.

“I really am surprised that there was no loss of life. Everybody was okay and the animals got out okay,” he said. “It was just shock and sadness that people were displaced, and all their belongings were lost.”

The fire is believed to be the largest of its kind to take place in the Capital City since the 1980s.

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