Lightning strike probable cause of Warner Robins apartment fire
Henry Evans and Alexis Mason had just lain down on a pallet in the living room Tuesday night to watch TV when Evans said he started getting hot.
“I turn on the air conditioning because I kept getting hotter, hotter and hotter. I said I know the air conditioning ain’t broke. They just fixed it,” he said. “Then somebody started banging on my door.”
His girlfriend answered the door but didn’t see anybody. But when she stepped outside and looked up, she saw the fire.
“She saying, Henry, get out! Get out! And grab whatever you can, and so that’s what I did. That’s what we did,” Evans said. “We grabbed whatever we can. We got out.”
Evans and Mason are among those displaced after flames erupted at Castaways apartments on Leisure Lake Drive shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday.
“We lost everything,” Evans said.
Fire Chief Ross Moulton said everybody got out, and no injuries were reported in the blaze.
Firefighters had the fire under control within an hour but put out hot spots late into the night Tuesday.
Warner Robins fire Capt. Danny Williams, a fire investigator, was on the scene Wednesday looking at fire patterns, including an aerial view from a bucket extended by a ladder truck over Building C. The two-story building housed 20 apartments.
“Right now, my most probable cause is the lightning strike that followed the water lines to a water heater,” Williams said. “All my (fire) patterns lead to where it looks like it started from a water heater on the upstairs balcony.”
The fire then roared up into the attic and raced across the building.
“Everybody in here lost stuff,” Williams said. “We had a ceiling collapse on the top floor all the way across, and the bottom level had water damage.”
Lacosta Sanders was on his PlayStation 4 in the second-floor apartment he shared with his girlfriend when he heard a knock at the door.
Not seeing anyone, Sanders decided to check the mail. That’s when he saw flames and smoke from other units in the same building.
“I grabbed my duffel bag and whatever it had in there,” Sanders said. “Surprisingly, it may look bad in here, but a lot of our stuff survived.”
What was lost was mostly furniture and some clothing. But his two laptops, camera and high school graduation pictures were unscathed.
That’s the upside, Sanders said. The downside is now he and his girlfriend, Desirea Barnard, will have to find a new place to live.
“Right now, we’re at motel for the next seven days. … We’ve just got to pick up and move.”
The fire could be seen across Leisure Lake from Lakefront Drive where Lori and Perry Taylor were grilling out at a relative’s home.
Perry Taylor, who’d gone inside for a moment, first heard the sirens. He popped back outside to check the grill.
“You could see smoke billowing up. ... The whole left side on top was engulfed in flames,” he said.
Staff writer Laura Corley contributed to this article.