Fires wreak havoc on Labor Day weekend

By Joel Hall


A weekend house fire in College Park claimed the lives of two seniors and a small child, while on the same day, an apartment fire in Riverdale displaced nearly two dozen residents.

Around 2 a.m., Saturday morning, Clayton County fire fighters responded to a large house fire at 5268 Norman Blvd., in College Park. By the time fighter fighters arrived, all but a fourth of the house was engulfed in flames.

Three people perished in the fire: Rose Moss, who owned the house; Eugene Smith, Moss' brother; and Jasmine Moss, her granddaughter. On Tuesday, a Clayton County Fire Department spokesperson did not give the ages of victims, but described Rose Moss as being in her eighties, Smith, in his sixties, and Jasmine Moss as approximately four years old.

Jerrell Smith, described by the fire department to be in his fifties, was the only survivor of the blaze. According a Clayton County Police report, Smith said he was awakened by his brother and sister who yelled, "The house is on fire! Get out!"

Smith was able to guide himself through the smoke, out the front door, but his brother, Rose Moss, and Jasmine Moss were unable to escape in time.

On Tuesday, fire fighters were still trying to figure out what caused the fire.

"We simply don't know, but we have not ruled out any causes," said Landry Merkison, fire department spokesperson. "We've got to gather more information, wait for results from tests to come back, and then gather more information.

"We'll probably talk to the survivor several more times," said Merkison.

Later on Saturday morning, a fire at an apartment complex on Garden Lake Drive left 20 residents without a place to live. It was around 10 a.m., according to authorities, and a grill fire at 603 Garden Lake Drive in Riverdale moved its way from the balcony of the apartment to the attic of the apartment complex.

According to a Clayton County Police report, the fire spread upwards, causing extensive damage to apartments 601-609, and apartment 619. Other apartments below 603 received water damage from the sprinkler system.

Mandel Swanson, of apartment 619, was treated for minor injuries, but no one else was injured. However, the apartments' management decided to evacuate the entire building until repairs could be made, according to Merkison.

"It ended up affecting a lot more people than the fire, because management decided to move everyone out of the building," said Merkison. According to the fire department, multiple families were displaced by the fire, but were assisted at the scene by the Red Cross.