Apartment fire leaves families homeless - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Apartment fire leaves families homeless

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September 26, 2006

Albany --  Dozens of people lost their homes Tuesday afternoon when an Albany public housing apartment building erupted in flames. The fire sent families who live in the Odom Street Apartments running to safety in horror as they watched smoke pour from the middle of the building.

Three Albany Fire department units were originally called to battle the blaze, but two additional trucks had to be called in as the fire spread throughout the building's roof.

The fire department initially tried to fight the fire from inside the building to minimize the damage, but eventually had to douse the entire middle of the structure. "Water will do just as much damage as the fire itself, so it's kind of defeating the purpose to throw all that water on it initially unless it gets to a point where we've got to make a decision, all right we're going to do that to save the rest of the building which is what we did today," said Albany Fire Chief James Carswell.

Firefighters believe the fire started in a bedroom on the second floor of Apartment number eight. They haven't determined an exact cause. The heaviest damage was contained to number eight and the apartments on either side, but the entire building sustained smoke damage.  

Firefighters initially thought someone was trapped inside the apartments. Neighbors frantically knocked on doors to get everyone out, and firefighters searched the building to ensure everyone was safe. Twelve of the 14 apartments in the building were occupied, now many of those residents are homeless.

To fight this fire, firefighters had to cut power to the building. There is a large hole in the roof above apartments seven and eight. Many of the people who lived here won't be able to get back in their apartments until that power can be restored, and they're not sure when that will be. Most stood helplessly here on the sidewalk and watched his building burn.  

Bobbie Jones works nights and was sleeping when she heard pounding on her apartment door. "I jumped up. I had to dress myself and I ran outside to see what apartment was on fire and then I noticed it was my neighbor's apartment in number eight and I called her from Kaigles."

Arcrayalha Stewart was working, her kids at school, and was horrified as she arrived home after a startling phone call.  "I just jumped up and started running, I didn't ask no questions."

Surveying the damage, she realized it was her apartment where the fire started. Stewart said, "I'm hurt because it looks like I lost everything that I hardly earned and worked for."

She's still not sure what she'll tell her 9 and 13 year old children, but knows there will be questions. "What's going on what's happening? I'm lost too."

Despite losing everything, she's taking the damage in stride and is just thankful no one was hurt.  "I thank God that everybody's all right, and it looks like everything's going to be all right there no use getting upset about it because things happen," said Stewart.  

Many residents said they have family in the area who can help them. The American Red Cross was here this afternoon and will work with families to provide assistance.  

The Red Cross was estimating what they would need to help 11 families. With limited resources they will only be able to provide these families with hotel rooms for up to three days while they make other arrangements. They're also giving families food vouchers to purchase some food for their hotel rooms.  

The American Red Cross will also put families in touch with other agencies including the Lord's Pantry and the Salvation Army for additional help.

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