Apartment fire kills elderly Valdosta woman inside assisted-living home - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Apartment fire kills elderly Valdosta woman inside assisted-living home

October 13, 2007

Valdosta -- It was a Saturday morning turned tragic at the Ashley House in Valdosta. Residents were evacuated from inside the 7-story assisted living home where a deadly fire started around 8:30 a.m.

"I heard the smoke alarm go off, and when I got up, the firemen were up on our floor," said resident Carol Booth.

Booth lives one floor above the 6th story apartment where a 77-year-old Willie Mae Williams died when her bedroom became fully engulfed in flames.

"It's just been a tragic day," she said.

Units from the Valdosta Fire Department were first dispatched to the Ashley House which is home to some 60 assisted living residents.

"On our initial size up, we found that we had one apartment that was involved. We used a stand pipe to distinguish the fire. Upon investigation inside the apartment, we found that we had a fatality," said Lt. J. T. Robinson, Valdosta Fire Department.

The windows were opened to the apartment where the victim lived along with her daughter. Fire officials say there were oxygen tanks inside the room where the fire started.

Now what you see here are some of the burned remains of the 6th floor apartment that was fully engulfed inside the Ashley House. Now there are some questions about whether Williams was smoking around an oxygen tank when this fire started. Right now, that remains under fire investigation.

"There were some rumors of maybe an oxygen tank exploding. But that has not been confirmed," said Robinson.

While the fire was quickly extinguished, and further tragedy averted neighbors are still shaken by the loss of a friend who lived just a few doors down.

The Valdosta Fire Department said the fire damage was primarily contained to the 6th floor.

No other residents were injured by the fire, and were allowed to return back to their apartments when the building was declared safe.

Officials with the Red Cross were also on the scene throughout the day.

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