The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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February 26, 2013

Victims, families, community pull together to ensure safety during fire

HINTON — With two major blazes and multiple structures in the line of fire Tuesday morning, fire victims, families, friends and members of the community stepped up to ensure each other’s safety during the fire that leveled 11 homes and six separate structures in downtown Hinton.

Randy Weikle said he smelled smoke and heard sirens and looked outside his back window, which faces the backside of “the brick row” where Tuesday morning’s fire started.

He said he could see flames and smoke in the building next door to where his hearing impaired and wheelchair-bound mother-in-law, Priscilla Martin, lived.

“I went out front and started getting them out of there and it was not long before the fire had spread. I kicked a lot of doors in and even got some birds out of there,” he said.

Weikle first got to his mother-in-law, who was unaware the building next door was on fire. Once she was safe on the street he returned to help others evacuate.

Katherine Boggess lived in the center block with her four children, a 16-month-old grandchild and another small boy she cares for.

“My smoke alarm went off and woke me up. I opened the bedroom door and there was smoke everywhere. I got downstairs to get my kids out,” she shared. “I had to go back upstairs to get my dog. She panicked and went back upstairs under the bed and hid.”

Like several of the fire victims, Boggess has family and friends nearby to stay with.

“Right now I’m staying with my uncle but I’m at a loss. There is just so much of a loss you don’t know what to do. I’m not sure what we are going to do from here,” she said.

Jeremiah Martin, also a fire victim, said he woke up to the sound of his ex-girlfriend pounding on his door to alert him the neighboring structures were on fire.

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