Meeting in the works to discuss Bon Vista fire

MORGANTOWN, W.Va – Local officials with Monongalia County and the city of Morgantown are planning to meet to discuss how a future disaster, such as the fire at Bon Vista Apartments earlier this summer, can be avoided in the future.

In response to the concerns of victims of the fire at Bon Vista Apartments, Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom and Morgantown City Councilor Brian Butcher, are meeting with county EMS officials and contacting state officials to discuss plans to avoid future complex fires. Bloom gave details to victims who attended Monongalia County Commission’s meeting Wednesday where improving regulations and local communications with emergency responders were put on the table.

“I have talked with Brian (Butcher), in fact, yesterday and he was asking about meeting, with you, me and I asked for Jimmy Smith to just discuss the one area that you brought up is a concern for all of ours,” said Bloom to victims during the meeting.

The Bon Vista Apartment fire resulted in the destruction of 12 residences, and tens of thousands of dollars of building and personal property damage. It also exposed flaws in the complex’s structures. According to Bloom, an investigation of the fire showed the building had no sprinkler systems and a lack of emergency exits. Tennants who suffered loss as a result of the fire had reported several concerning issues prior to the disaster.

“I had issues with several electrical repairs that were brought to their attention and they refused to do them,” said victim Andrea Street, who had a dog die as a result of the fire. “They refused them because they said that there were new owners coming in and they didn’t want to pay for anything,” she said while addressing the county commission.

Street also criticized the emergency response. According to Street, emergency responders took approximately 45 minutes to arrive at the Bon Vista Apartment fire while the Morgantown Fire Department, the closest unit available, was never called. Bloom considered this a major county concern due to the “mutual agreement” that allows the Morgantown Fire Department to respond outside city limits if needed.

“With the mutual agreement and why we’re not working better together,” said Bloom on his concerns with the emergency response. “For the county volunteer fire departments and the City of Morgantown’s fire department and that’s an issue that we are going to meet and discuss and Brian is going to be in touch with you on that,” he said.

While local emergency responder communications appear to be a fixable problem, addressing the state of the apartment complex itself is expected to be a tougher task. Bloom stated prior efforts to make requirements made in the 2009 International Residential Code state code were not passed and even citation recommendations from the State Fire Marshal’s Office would only carry so much weight. Despite limitations on a state level, Bloom affirms that local officials on all levels are working to avoid a repeat of the Bon Vista Apartments fire.

“I am hoping that, with Brian (Butcher) and I reaching out, he will go back to city council, I will come back to the county commissioners to see what we can do to try and have this problem not happen again,” said Bloom.