Houston & Peach

‘I ... just watched everything go up in smoke,’ displaced Warner Robins resident says

'Six or seven apartments - gone,' says man displaced by Warner Robins fire

Residents displaced by a fire at Wellston Ridge Apartment Community in Warner Robins, Georgia, share their experiences in aftermath of blaze.
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Residents displaced by a fire at Wellston Ridge Apartment Community in Warner Robins, Georgia, share their experiences in aftermath of blaze.

Miguel Jimenez was met after work Monday by a neighbor asking to borrow his phone.

His neighbor’s kitchen was on fire. He immediately called 911.

It was 5:15 p.m.

“After that, that’s what we get,” Jimenez said as he pointed to what was left Tuesday of the apartment building where he lived with his wife, son and the family dog. “From here, all the way down. Six or seven apartments — gone.”

Eight families, or a total of 21 people living in one apartment building, were displaced by the fire at the Wellston Ridge Apartment Community off Olympia Drive. The American Red Cross is assisting.

Arriving firefighters found “heavy flames on the front side of the building,” said Deputy Chief Bobby Wood.

One ladder company and three engines were the first to arrive, but the fire commander called in two more units to battle the flames.

“The crews evacuated everybody from the building and extinguished the fire,” Wood said. “There were no injuries to the occupants or fire personnel.”

All pets also made it out safely.

Seven of the eight units in the building sustained major damage in the fire which appeared to have started in the central portion of the building, which has one-story units on the end and two-story apartments in the middle, Wood said.

“Our guys did a real good job containing it,” he said.

Firefighters spent more than five hours at the complex.

They were able to salvage some paintings and personal items, but the upper units sustained heavy damage as the flames shot across the attic.

Most of the residents were not at home when the fire broke out.

“I was at work when it all started,” said Robert Fiske, whose apartment was destroyed. “I pulled in and just watched everything go up in smoke.”

Fiske said he heard that the fire started while a neighbor was cooking dinner.

“I’m just happy nobody was hurt, and the animals all got out,” Fiske said. “That’s life; a part of life. It happens.”

Warner Robins fire Capt. Danny Williams and fellow fire investigators were on site Tuesday. They were looking for patterns to try to determine what may have caused the fire.

Williams said he’d also heard the fire may have started on a stove — from a box catching on fire.

“We’re not sure yet,” Williams said. “That’s why we’re here now to get a better view in the daytime.

“At night, when you got all the smoke, the heat and the water, everything is wet. You come back in the daytime when everything’s cooled down and you can see everything a whole lot better.”

Keera Mathis was at her mom’s house with her two sons when the fire started.

“I got a call that some people’s apartments was on fire, but I didn’t think it was mine,” Mathis said. “But then the rent office called me and told me it was mine, too.”

She came to the fire scene but wasn’t allowed to get close because of the heavy smoke.

“And when we got a chance to come look at it, I saw the damage and, you know, it was pretty devastating,” Mathis said.

She was back on site Tuesday.

“I’m going to go in here and see what can be salvaged, but I think it’s pretty much a loss,” she said.

Liz Fabian: 478-744-4303, @liz_lines

Becky Purser: 478-256-9559, @BecPurser