Blaze destroys building at complex on Fairways

Published 12:30 am Saturday, April 16, 2011

An apartment building in the county burned to the ground Friday, moments after a blaze that caused minor damage at a complex in the city.

A building of 12 units at The Landings, on Fairways Drive, off Henry and Oak Ridge roads, was destroyed, displacing residents. In the city, at the Van Guard apartments on Lake Hill Drive, damage was limited to a small upstairs area of a unit.

The fires were the second and third in three days at apartment complexes. Wednesday, a unit in Azalea Trace on Fisher Ferry Road near St. Michael’s Catholic Church was damaged, reportedly from a kitchen pot that caught fire.

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No injuries were reported in Friday’s fires, but one resident at The Landings had to be awakened by a maintenance man and helped from his unit before firefighters arrived, and some firemen became overheated but not seriously, said Kelly Worthy, coordinator for the county’s volunteer fire departments.

Crews couldn’t do much to save the building, Worthy said. “The flames were through the roof when we got here, so the fire was vented. It makes a big difference.”

The buildings are also constructed with vinyl siding, Styrofoam insulation and other materials that contain petroleum-based chemicals and burn easily, Worthy said, and with air pockets around the modular construction that feed the fire.

“We don’t know how it started,” he said. “At this point, where it started isn’t there anymore.”

Resident Ashley Stough had just come home from work and taken her dog out for a walk, she said. When she returned, she noticed smoke as she reached the second-floor landing on the way to her third-floor apartment.

The E-911 call from The Landings came in at 2:59 p.m., with Culkin and Bovina volunteer units arriving first.

“We paged Fisher Ferry for additional manpower, and then we had people here from Eagle Lake and all over who heard it and came,” Worthy said. “That’s just how they are. We probably had 30 firefighters here at one time.”

Friday evening, the fire still burned and firefighters were in what Worthy termed “defensive mode,” trying to protect other buildings at the complex and nearby cars and trucks.

The vinyl siding on a nearby building was partially melted, Worthy said. Two vehicles parked in front of the burning building were moved and others, across the driveway and belonging to people not at home, were being protected, he said.

“Somebody from one of the fire departments or in maintenance at the complex will stay here to watch it,” Worthy said. It could be hours before the area is unattended, he said.

The Landings is comprised of 12 buildings. Building No. 8 was destroyed in Friday’s fire.

In January 2002, a blaze at the complex destroyed 10 of 12 apartments.

The fire at the Van Guard complex was reported about 3:45 p.m., said Assistant Fire Chief Tim Love.

Residents were home at the time and had put out the blaze with fire extinguishers before firemen arrived, said Investigator Leslie Decareaux. The fire was limited to a closet-area upstairs and no significant damage was reported.

“We checked it out and ventilated the unit,” she said, “and we’re doing some investigating.”

Two fire engines, a platform truck, rescue squad, ambulance and battalion officers responded.