Fireplace ashes on deck blamed for Del. fire

January 4, 2012 7:34:16 PM PST
Investigators said that a massive fire at a Delaware apartment complex started when someone placed fireplace ashes on a third-floor deck.

More than a dozen apartments were damaged, some destroyed, during the fire Wednesday morning in Bear, Delaware.

Rescue crews arrived at the Fox Run Apartments in 2400 block of Squirrel Drive around 9:40 a.m. and struck a second alarm a short time later.

"I just looked out the back and there was stuff flying off the building. It was on fire," said resident Denise Jester.

Jester could only watch helplessly as flames traveled toward her apartment. Ryan Graves had been dozing in his unit when the ceiling fell.

"That's when I got up and then I looked out the back and my curtain was already on fire. Got him out into the car and I had to run back in and find my 9-week-old puppy," he told Action News.

Graves and others managed to get many of their pets. As the fire spread, passing state troopers went door to door.

"I heard banging on my door and the police started to kick my door in and he said, 'Ma'am I need you to leave the apartment right now,' said resident Brittney Robertson.

"They got about four to five people out of there and also rescued three or four dogs," said Delaware State Police Sergeant Paul Shavack.

The greatest damage was in the rear of building 2410. Some residents complained firefighters were slow to respond, but the fire log shows the first unit arrived 4 minutes after the first call.

In spite of the heavy damage the building did have fire sprinklers.

Late on Wednesday those who could removed belongings from the condemned buildings, though some residents lost everything. Mathew Wright is a professional disc jockey.

"I lost everything, everything I own. All my music, all my equipment . . . I can't believe this," Wright said.

Of the 18 units damaged, about six of them were completely gutted.

The only reported injury was to a firefighter who suffered a minor burn to the back of his neck.

The Red Cross is helping nine families.