Smoke rising from William Bonds’ apartment sent his neighbors into a panic at about 8:15 a.m. Tuesday as they thought the Waffle House manager was inside.
Property manager Rashaun Seabrooks said her phone continually rang.
“The tenants were calling and calling me because they didn’t know whether he was still inside,” Seabrooks said.
She called him at the Gray Highway restaurant not far from his home.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“That’s the worst phone call you have to make -- telling a person your apartment is on fire,” she said.
Bonds, whose 19-year-old cousin was killed in a shooting at Macon Gardens apartments last week, seemed emotionally drained as he sat in the front seat of his car in the parking lot.
“It’s been a week for me,” he said. “I’ve never lost everything, so it will be a journey.”
Fire investigator Sgt. Ben Gleaton determined the fire started in Bonds’ bedroom near the nightstand, which only had a light on it.
The fire likely began about 90 minutes after Bonds left for work at 6:30 a.m.
“I’m fortunate, very fortunate, especially with it being in my bedroom,” Bonds said.
The room sustained heavy fire damage, Gleaton said.
Downstairs resident Melissa Braswell also was at work when she got a call from her spouse, who was still sleeping when the fire started.
“I just heard a bang, bang, bang at the door, and I looked through the peep hole and saw people hysterical in the breezeway,” Antwann Braswell said.
Melissa Braswell also is grieving the recent death of her sister.
The water and smoke damage to their apartment compounded her misery.
“I’m just feeling homeless, worried about where I’m going to stay,” she said. “Very upset. This is terrible.”
Seabrooks was working to find alternate apartments for both Bonds and the Braswells.
She was grateful someone noticed the smoke before the fire could consume more units in the building.
“Our tenants caught it early. It’s a sad thing,” she said as the residents were assessing what they had lost.