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Apartment fire that displaced 18 people ruled an accident

4:24 PM, Dec 3, 2012   |    comments
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Fire investigators have determined the cause of the fire at the  Southmont Apartments on Sunday to be accidental.  They have confirmed the fire started in the kitchen around the refrigerator in apartment 8.  No foul play is suspected.

Previous story

 

A South Knoxville mom and her baby woke up to smoke and flames inside their apartment Sunday morning.

The fire started at 8:30 a.m. in one building of the Southmont Apartments on Moody Avenue. The cause is still under investigation. Knoxville Fire Department said it started in the kitchen. No one was hurt.

The fire has displaced 18 people in the 10 unit apartment building for at least one night, while the power is off.

The Red Cross is putting up two families, whose apartments are permanently damaged in a hotel for a few days.

The others, may be able to return at some point, but for Sunday night must stay with friends and family.

Jerri Thomas and her 1-year-old son Eli, lost everything.

"You just never think nothing like this would happen to you," Thomas said.

Sunday she and her neighbors took shelter inside the South Knoxville Fire Station. She felt blessed to be able to hold her baby boy.

"I am thankful he is still here. That's my pride and joy," she said.

Thomas woke up Sunday morning to her smoke detector.

"The living room was full of smoke. The kitchen is on the back wall and it was all in flames," Thomas said.

Her first thought was Eli, sleeping in the room next door.

"I grabbed him out of his bed, covered him as much as I could in my chest so he wouldn't breathe it in. And I just ran outside," she said.

On the second floor, without her cell phone, she banged on neighbors doors to wake them up and ask for help. But the flames were blocking the staircase and trapping the second floor residents for a short time.

Thankfully the fire station was just across the street and put the fire out quickly.

With the victims out, KFD worked to keep the fire from spreading.

"These apartments share a common attic. The fire was running along top the attic. They were able to push that back and into the contained area," said D.J. Corcoran, KFD spokesperson.

While others were able to return to collect necessities, Thomas had nothing left to get.

The red cross is providing her with clothing and shelter.

Still, she worries about how she's going to take care of her son.

"With his birthday and Christmas coming up," she said through tears, "It's a struggle in itself to be a single mom."

The red cross says Southmont Apartments has other units they will try to put the two displaced families in.

KFD said there have been at least three fires at the complex in the past five years.


Previous Story:

Investigators on the scene said the fire appears to have started in the kitchen area of the woman's apartment.

The woman and her baby were sleeping Sunday morning when the smoke alarm went off.

No injuries were reported and the American Red Cross is helping the 18 people who live there.

Original Story:

Knoxville firefighters are investigating the cause of an apartment fire in South Knoxville Sunday morning.

It happened at Southmont Apartments on E. Moody Ave.

Captain DJ Corcoran with KFD reports a woman called 911 saying a fire was in her second floor kitchen. She and a child were able to escape that unit unharmed.

When crews arrived, two units were on fire, and flames were shooting through a window near a stairwell, blocking an immediate escape route for second floor residents.

Firefighters were able to quickly battle the flames back enough to clear the stairs, and everyone in the building was able to get out safely.

Officials say 15 people live in the building. At least one apartment is now uninhabitable.

Arson investigators are now working to determine the cause of the fire.

 

More details as they become available at WBIR.com

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