Calwell

CHARLESTON -- Nearly 6,000 St. Albans and Nitro residents who were ordered to stay in their homes for almost a day after a massive fire broke out in 2006 are eligible for up to $291 in damages.

Their two lawyers -– Stuart Calwell and Alex McLaughlin of The Calwell Practice –- will receive $475,000 for their work on the case.

Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Paul Zakaib Jr. approved a preliminary settlement Sept. 9 in a lawsuit that pitted the town's residents against U.S. Tire Recovery and Chemvalley Properties.

The suit stemmed from a May 4, 2006, fire that began in a 19th Street warehouse in Nitro leased by U.S. Tire Recovery and owned by Chemvalley, according to the first complaint filed May 5, 2006, in Kanawha Circuit Court.

The fire, which was started after as many as 50,000 tires were doused with flammable liquid, caused a shelter-in-place alert from May 4 until 11 a.m. May 5, the complaint states.

The complaint's lead plaintiff was Marietta Angel, who took over Stephen D. Gillam's spot.

In the suit, Angel and other plaintiffs alleged the fire caused "a cloud of toxic fumes, vapors and precipitate to settle over the Nitro area, forcing residents, including plaintiffs, to 'shelter-in-place' to avoid breathing the dangerous byproducts of rubber tire combustion."

Residents also claimed they suffered from a diminution of value of their property, loss of use and enjoyment of their properties, annoyance and inconvenience, and punitive damages as a result of the fire.

As a result of the settlement, U.S. Tire Recovery and Chemvalley Properties will pay $1.175 million into a trust that will be distributed to residents who were put under the shelter-in-place restriction.

Of that, each household is eligible to receive $14 to $15 per hour they were ordered to stay home, Alex McLaughlin, counsel for Angel and area residents, told the Charleston Gazette.

Residents could receive anywhere from $68 to $291, he said.

Any remaining money will be given to the St. Albans and Nitro fire departments, McLaughlin said.

Residents who are eligible for the money should receive notification within 30 days.

Although no one has been arrested for arson, Ricky Handley pleaded guilty in July to illegally accumulating more than 1,000 tires. Handley was a managing partner of the Nitro tire company, prosecutors said.

His business bought used tires in bulk and separated those that could be sold from the unusable ones, which were stacked in the warehouse.

Handley was sentenced Sept. 17 to one to five years in prison and fined $10,000. He admitted to conspiracy to accumulate more than a thousand tires without a permit. Prosecutors say Handley actually collected between 30,000 and 40,000, which were eventually set on fire.




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