COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The two men killed in a massive overnight fire at Midtown Park Apartments in Columbus that also displaced dozens of people have been identified.
Muscogee County Chief Deputy Coroner Freeman Worley says 42-year-old Donald Lechowicz and 65-year-old Herman McCikens died as a result of the fire.
More than two dozen Columbus residents were displaced, waking up as their apartment complex goes up in flames and smoke.
Crews say they are confident that everyone inside the building at the time of the fire is out of the building, but are continuing a thorough search to be certain.
The fire started just before midnight on Friday, July 31 at Midtown Park Apartments on 12th Street.
Julie Lechowiez lives upstairs in unit 210 and says the fire may have started in her apartment.
“My pitbull has a bad habit of playing really rough, maybe he knocked the candle over,” said Lechowiez.
Lechowiez says after lighting the candle on a table in an upstairs room, she then went downstairs to the laundry room and within in five minutes, “Our apartment is engulfed, just engulfed,” she said.
Lechowiez also says her husband was asleep when the fire started. “I even tried to go get him, but they wouldn’t let me go get him,” Lechowiez explained.
“I was asleep and I smelled smoke, woke up and saw the smoke in my apartment and got out,” said Willie Samuel, who lives downstairs in the apartment complex.
Like so many other tenants at this apartment building located at 1500 12th Street near Wynnton Road in Columbus, other than the clothes on his back, Samuel says he was not able to grab any of his belongings.
“We put as much water as we can and we have units on this end trying to make sure it doesn’t come on this end,” interim fire chief Greg Lang said well into the night.
Apartment manager Elton Suragh says 30 families lived in the apartments and described the damage as devastating.
Fire officials have not yet confirmed the cause of the fire.
The bodies of both Lechowicz and McCikens will be sent off for autopsies on Monday to determine their official cause of death.
Stay with News Leader 9 on air and online for updates as they become available.