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Body found in burning Richmond warehouse: ‘They felt the building shake’

Posted at 1:17 PM, Nov 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-01 17:19:13-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Firefighters found a body inside a South Richmond warehouse after a fire early Friday morning.

Initial reports from the scene along Jeff Davis Highway indicated the warehouse was empty when firefighters arrived at about 2:30 a.m.

A man's body was found hours later after firefighters marked the fire under control and conducted an extensive search of the building.

Richmond Fire Lt. Chris Armstrong said the body was found in a separate part of the warehouse than where the fire originated.

The medical examiner will determine the cause and manner of death.

Joshua Vargas was patrolling at a nearby apartment complex for a security company when he spotted smoke coming from the building.

"There was nobody in the area. It was 2:20 [in the morning] and nobody was around. It was very quiet," Vargas recalled. "There was nothing unusual or suspicious I had to report besides the smoke."

Vargas said the fire spread quickly after it was believed a gas tank exploded inside the warehouse.

"It blew up. It was such a loud noise and it woke up everyone in the building," he described. "Every single person that came down to check it out said they felt the building shake -- like it was an earthquake. That’s how loud it was. That’s how much of an effect it had on everybody."

Power to a nearby apartment building was cut as firefighters worked to extinguish the warehouse fire. Neighbors who arrived home overnight were unable to get into their apartments.

The warehouse was filled with roofing material that prolonged the firefighting efforts, according to Armstrong.

The initial crews called for a second alarm and more fire crews arrived. Ultimately more than 50 firefighters were on scene.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation.

This is a developing story. Witnesses can send news tips, photos, and video here.