Photo by Heather Middleton
By Kathy Jefcoats
A young girl was overcome with smoke early Tuesday morning from a blazing Riverdale apartment complex fire.
It was unclear Tuesday evening what the child was doing at the time she was exposed. Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Battalion Chief Jacque Feilke said officials were first told she was playing outside while the crowd watched firefighters tackle the flames.
"We heard later that maybe she was going door to door with her mother, alerting neighbors to the fire, getting people out," said Feilke. "We aren't sure now what she was doing."
No other injuries were reported from the fire at a six-unit building at Highland Vista Apartments, said Feilke. Five families were displaced due to the blaze.
Clayton County property records show the structure on Arrowhead Boulevard to be more than 40 years old. Feilke said there were no sprinklers and the roof collapsed soon after firefighters responded about 10:33 a.m., three minutes after several people called 911.
"When firefighters arrived, there was already heavy black smoke and flames," she said. "We started a second alarm immediately because of the heat and because it is apartments."
The fire and firefighting activity quickly drew the attention of neighbors.
The child, who was not identified, was taken to Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale where Feilke said she was in stable condition.
"We were finally able to get the fire out in about an hour and a half," she said. "Thankfully no one else was hurt."
Firefighters were trying to determine the cause of the blaze.
"The cause is under investigation," said Feilke. "There was some talk about a dumpster with building materials, but we don't know where the fire started or what caused it."
Feilke said one unit on the end was unoccupied, but families were living in the other five units. However, only two families were home when the fire started. Feilke said the American Red Cross was on the scene Tuesday to help the families find a place to live.
"Sometimes the management of the complex will let the families stay in an empty unit if there is one, but the families don't have any furniture or anything," she said.