Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 12, 2013

Fire damages Flatwoods apartment building

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

FLATWOODS — An early-morning fire heavily damaged a Flatwoods apartment building on Friday, but the residents all escaped without injury.

The blaze was reported about 2 a.m. at Brentwood III Apartments, 1805 Clay St.

Firefighters had to rescue two residents from the burning structure. One was a man who lived on the upper floor of the two-story building. Firefighters raised a ladder to his window and the man climbed down to safety, Flatwoods Fire Department Assistant Chief Steve Carver said.

The department also assisted an elderly woman who lived on the first floor, Carver said. The woman was having difficulty getting out because she uses a wheelchair, he said.

The fire began in the kitchen of one of the upstairs apartments. Carver said a woman was cooking French fries and the hot oil she was using ignited. The flames spread from the woman’s apartment into the hallway.

Flames were leaping from the building when firefighters arrived, Carver said. The fire department had the blaze under control within about 45 minutes, he said. Flatwoods firefighters were assisted at the scene by members of the Russell and Westwood fire departments.

Seven of the eight apartments in the building were occupied, Carver said.

Luanne Fugeman lived in one of the second-story apartments with her daughter, Jordan Hall, and son, L.T. Fugeman. All three were sleeping when the fire started and were awakened by the commotion outside the building.

“We heard someone pounding on something and saying, ‘There’s a fire! There’s a fire!’” Luanne Fugeman said.

The heavy smoke that filled the building made it difficult for the three to find their way out, Hall said.

“You couldn’t see. You couldn’t breathe,” she said.  

The three managed to make it to safety with the family dog, a black Shih Tzu-Yorkshire terrier mix named Pebbles.

The family was awaiting permission to go back into the building Friday morning to see what belongings they could salvage. Luanne Fugeman, who works at the Lowe’s store in Russell, said the plan was for the three to stay with family.

The building where the fire occurred is one of two in Brentwood III Apartments. The buildings are owned by Franklin Properties of Louisville.

Vicki James, executive director of the Northeast Kentucky Chapter of the American Red Cross, said the agency is helping the seven families displaced by the fire.

 “We received the call around 2:40 a.m. and I was on the scene by 3:15 a.m. to assist families,” she said.

  The Red Cross has distributed comfort kits to all those affected and all residents have been temporarily placed with family members and friends, James said.

 “We were lucky there were no injuries and credit that to the quick response of the Flatwoods Volunteer Fire Department,” she said. “Today, we will be focusing on casework for those individuals and making sure their needs are being met.”

 James said the blaze also was a stark reminder of the importance of fire safety.

“October is Fire Prevention Month, and families need to have a plan in the event of a fire,” she said. “Fire Prevention Month is a good time to remind all families of the need to make sure they have a planned escape route, a fire extinguisher, smoke alarms with good batteries and renters insurance is always a good idea for those who rent.”