22 December 2006

Too Close For Comfort...

We had no idea of the drama that was playing out just about 700 metres from where we were sleeping until one of our friends rang up to check on us...


Fire Displaces Residents at Lexington Apartment Complex
By Beverly Fortune

A predawn fire in south Lexington on Friday destroyed two buildings in an apartment complex and displaced residents in eight apartments. Four other units were vacant.

The fire was reported at 4:25 a.m. at Kirklevington Hills apartments, 3050 Kirklevington Drive, near Tates Creek and New Circle roads, Battalion Chief Jim Wells said.

The fire gutted two buildings, each containing six apartments. One of the residents, Anthony Johnson, jumped from a balcony and was taken to the University of Kentucky Medical Center.

His condition Friday afternoon was reported as stable, according to a spokeswoman.

Another resident, Chet Miller, said that when he opened his front door, he couldn’t see the parking lot for flames. The exterior stairway was burning; he heard screams.

Milled pulled on jeans and a pair of tennis shoes, and grabbed his cell phone. He didn’t bother with the fire escape that you have to lift a lid to access, he said.

“I swung from my balcony to the second-floor balcony” and from there to the first-floor balcony, Miller said.

Looking in the window of a first-floor apartment, Miller saw a man asleep on the couch. “I woke him up,” said Miller, 26, the girls’ basketball coach at Paris High School.

While firemen sprayed water on the blaze, the unidentified man repeatedly came up to Miller and thanked him, saying Miller probably saved his life.

“I’m sure he would have done the same for me,” said Miller, who moved into his apartment Nov. 11. All his belongings, except the clothes he was wearing, were destroyed.

Several of those displaced by the fire moved to apartments elsewhere in the complex, said Gene Staples of Illinois-based River Oaks Management, an owner of the complex. All told, there are 128 units housing 110 families.

Staples said there have been three fires at the complex in the past five years.

The apartment units had smoke alarms but no sprinkler system. Sprinklers were not required when the complex was built 30 years ago, said Rick Young, maintenance supervisor.

The most recent fire, in October, destroyed the complex’s rental office. The office had been moved to one of the buildings that burned Friday morning, Staples said.

“Unfortunately, it’s been a string of bad luck rather than neglect on our part,” Staples said of the fires.

The cause of Friday’s fire is not known.

Investigators were on the scene for several hours. It probably will be Tuesday before they determine a cause and where the fire started, Wells said.


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