Deadly apartment fire causes $364K in damage

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - One person is dead after a fire broke out at a Memphis apartment complex.

The fire broke out at Whispering Pines Apartments on Dwight Road just after 1 a.m.

By the time Memphis Fire Department was able to get to the fire, it had badly damaged the second floor of the apartment complex. Firefighters tried to get inside but couldn't.

"It was just blazing, people were running and trying to get their kids situated. It was just chaotic," Ronnie Ware said.

Fire crews took nearly an hour to get the fire under control before they could get inside and search the apartments.

Once inside, firefighters discovered a man's body. Two firefighters were also injured battling the blaze, but they're expected to be OK.

Ryan Pye said he had to rush his family out of the house when he saw the smoke.

"[The smoke was] very, very thick--real, real thick. I'm taking about you can barely breathe. So all I had on was my underwear, and I just grabbed my girls and we just came on downstairs," Pye said. "My first thing was to protect my children, get my children out the house, so that's what I did and when I came outside and seen the flames I couldn't believe it, man."

Memphis Fire Department said the apartment building did have a working smoke alarm. However, the fire still spread quickly enough to kill a man and cause $364,000 worth of damage.

The cause of the fire remains unknown.

Pye said the apartments are not well maintained and there are no working smoke detectors. He fears that could have contributed to the death of the man caught in the flames.

"He moves slow and sometimes he doesn't even come out the house and he just sits in his couch, so that would've gave his neighbors enough time, I think, gave them enough time to get him out the house," Pye said.

Not much is left of the apartment besides tons of rubble and debris on the ground.

"It was a rush of trying to hurry up and get everybody out of the house," resident Andre Fisher said.

Fisher recounted the moments he watched a massive fire rip through a building at the Whispering Pine Apartment Complex.

"It actually devastates me because it could have been me," Fisher said. "I could have been alone in that house."

It's something that seems like déjà vu to many residents.

"This is the second fire within two weeks," resident Sade Fisher said. "It don't make no sense."

Residents said they've had several issues with property management over the years, so WMC went to the leasing office to get answers.

"We've only been in here about two weeks and yes previously they have had a lot of issues and a lot of tenants have been coming to us like, 'I've been here for a year and this is...ya know?'" Erin Nash said.

Nash works at Whispering Pines' leasing office and said her company recently took over at the complex. She said they're cooperating with investigators and working to fix any issues.

"What we've really been doing is getting their files together and fixing the pre-existing issues," Nash said.

Residents said they hope management can make changes sooner rather than later.

"I just hope that they do something better about it," Fisher said. "It's other people that live over here. What if their problems are close to this where this could happen again?"

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