Families lose everything in apartment fire two days before Christmas

Community is stepping up to help those displaced
Updated: Dec. 23, 2020 at 4:23 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - A massive fire just days before Christmas leaves many Columbus families without their belongings.

Residents said thank goodness for working fire alarms. One woman said she woke up because of the alarm, another said her one-year-old son saved their lives.

Imagine waking up to smoke and flames... two days before Christmas. That is the unfortunate reality for 17 families at the Whisperwood Apartments in East Columbus.

“Fire just raining down, went to the front door, smoke going all the way around, residents running out.,” Larmetrice Nunnally said. “I grabbed my robe, dog, purse and keys.”

Cierra Washington said the fire alarms did not wake her up, her one year old’s baby monitor did. Her son’s name is Zane which means “a gift from God”. She credits him with saving both of their lives.

“We literally made it out just in time because as soon as I left, I saw Facebook live and it had spread to our apartment,” Washington said.

Firefighters report 18 units are destroyed. However, one positive... no deaths. Four firefighters sustained minor injuries and there are reports of two residents going to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

“This happened before the day, in the morning, 3:30 in the morning, people just had to get out,” Nunnally said. “The fire was that bad, it was get out, you’re awakened and you have to just get out, preserve life.”

The fire department estimates $1.65 million of structural damage plus everything the residents owned.

“But those are materialistic things,” Washington said, “my son and I are okay.”

Take a look at the exclusive drone video and you can see the entire roof is gone. Smoke still surrounding some of the units as firefighters monitor hot spots throughout the day. Both women said the community is already coming together to support them during this now tragic holiday season.

“So you’re out in the cold with very minimum, neighbors immediately came out with blankets,” Nunnally said. “It’s really going to take the community because with so much going on in the world things are easily forgotten. But when you’re going through it you don’t forget it. I needed clothes.”

“I can see this is going to make the community come together, like there’s strangers reaching out trying to help. That’s what’s important,” Washington said. “There’s a pandemic, it’s the end of the year, and then literally right before Christmas something like this happens.”

No loss of human life here but fire officials said several dogs and cats died in the fire.

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