WJTV News Channel 12 - Firefighters battle what they call one of the biggest fire in

Firefighters battle what they call one of the biggest fire in the town's history

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BIG STONE GAP, VA (WJHL) -

A large apartment building fire began shortly after 10:00 last night in Big Stone Gap, Virginia.  The fire broke out at the an unoccupied building on East 5th Street in downtown Big Stone Gap.  Firefighters tell us it initially began as smoke reports, but quickly escalated into one of the largest fires in the town's history.

Downtown business owner Judy Kilgore say the fire was like reliving a bad dream.  Kilgore's shop nearly burned 13 years ago, and Friday night's fire was too close for comfort.

"When I saw the smoke I thought it was mine and I was afraid it was mine on fire again," said Judy Kilgore.

The building was in the process of being renovated, property manager and Big Stone native Jason Stidham says he will feel the loss.

"It was probably one of the oldest buildings that we have left in Big Stone, we don't have many left and I'm very sad to see it go," said Jason Stidham.

Big Stone's downtown is currently in the midst of a revitalization project.  Stidham hopes they can at least salvage what's left behind.

"I'm hoping that we'll be able to do something with that particular lot and I'm hoping it's not going to damage the buildings next door," said Stidham.

The fire will no doubt leave a scar on Big Stone's downtown, but Judy Kilgore says it likely won't be permanent.

"Oh, we'll recover.  I'm sure," said Kilgore.

Big Stone Gap Assistant Fire Chief Dan Gibson says fire crews will likely be on the scene of the fire putting out hot spots for several days.  Gibson says what caused the fire is still unknown, but preliminary reports indicated it may have started in one of the lower floors.  Firefighters from Norton, Duffield and Valley Volunteer Fire Department assist with the fire.

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