SCOTTSBORO, Ala. - Three people lost their lives from smoke inhalation Thursday night on Meadows Street, due to an apartment fire. Officials arrived around 10:30 p.m. to a building engulfed in smoke and flames.
"The three other units maintained fairly well under these circumstances," said Chief Gene Necklaus of Scottsboro Fire Department. The four people in the other units made it out without any serious injuries.
It took almost five hours for responders to contain the unit where the fire started because it began to spread to the attic, which Chief Necklaus says is a harder level to fight. "Our concern for our people is a floor collapse or attic collapse. It's difficult to access an attic in a second-floor apartment like that."
More than 20 firefighters worked to beat the flames. Once the fire was out, investigators found that a faulty deep freezer in the apartment caused the fire. That wasn't the only thing they found. "We found one working smoke alarm in the downstairs unit that was not the origin," said Chief Necklaus.
These three deaths bring the state's total of fire fatalities to 20 this year. "First and foremost and most absolutely, working smoke alarms I believe can make a difference in most of the fire fatalities we see."
Chief Necklaus said if it wasn't for neighbors waking up the others in the building, there could have been even more deaths due to the lack of alarms. "It's a little bit of a defeat, a little bit of a personal hit when these things happen," said Chief Necklaus.
"We do take them seriously. Frankly, we are trying to be more of a prevention department instead of a response service. We want to prevent these things from happening." The Red Cross is working with those other residents that are displaced at this time.
Many surrounding neighbors on Meadow Street could see heavy smoke and flames from the fire, right outside of their window. "I was scared to death and worried. Did not have any clue that anyone was inside of the building," said Amy Pierce. She lives one house down.
A neighbor right across from the apartments noticed the fire almost immediately. "We were just sitting in the living room and we heard the glass break, so my husband looked outside and he said I think the building is on fire," said Molly Saavedra.
Molly said her husband called 911, while she called one of the tenants staying in the building. "They said they heard me screaming. I was so scared I was just screaming get out."
Four residents woke up and Molly said her and her husband helped them out. Her husband went back in for the other three people. "He ran in trying to beat the door down for the people who live in this other apartment, so they could wake up and get out," said Molly.
She said her husband couldn't get the windows to break and unfortunately those other three people didn't wake up. Brian Smith, Jennifer Chapman, and Paula Smith all died from smoke inhalation.
Extremely saddened by the lives lost in this fire, Molly said she was glad that she could help in some way but saddened they could not save everyone.