Update: Families return to assess fire damage at Country Club Apts. - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Anna Marie Hartman reports

Update: Families return to assess fire damage at Country Club Apts.

Firefighters treat residents for minor injuries Firefighters treat residents for minor injuries
Country Club Apartments Country Club Apartments

Reported by Anna Marie Hartman

Twenty families were put out while fire restoration crews went in to assess the damage at the Country Club Condominiums.

"They're just really beginning to sort of deal with the damage and I don't think they'll probably know anything for quite a while," says Virgina McLean.

McLean's mother lost everything when her home on the 5th floor went up in flames Friday afternoon.

McLean adds, "as bad as you can imagine, quadruple it and that's what it looks like. It's pretty bad."

McLean says her mother heard the fire alarm, found the stairs and made her way out of the building.

"Well, she's staying with me and we brought some pictures to her yesterday and she was really glad to see those," adds McLean.

Saturday, families were escorted inside the high rise of homes on Southern Avenue to gather up clothing and valuables.

McLean's mother says she almost started to cry as she approached the stairs. She says its like her life is sort of gone. 

She is really pleased that she was able to find some old photographs.

The heat was so intense it melted a lot of water pipes and wiring in the building. It will be a couple of days before residents will be able to come back home. 

Contractors must complete their work and get clearance from the Fire Marshall. But the wait for Virginia McLean's mother will be much longer.

It could take months to rebuild the home where the fire began.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. A few residents and firefighters were injured but none of those injuries were serious.

Reported by Andrew Douglas 06/01/07

A 3-Alarm fire broke out late Friday afternoon at a high-rise apartment building in Memphis.

The fire was on the fifth floor of the Country Club Apartments across the street from the Memphis Country Club.

Flames were shooting out from windows 30 minutes after the fire started. Residents stood outside watching firefighters battle the blaze.

Investigators are trying to figure out what ignited the fire that forced all the building's occupants to evacuate.

"When I couldn't see or breathe on the 8th floor I thought, well, this is what it's going to be," says resident John Maxwell.

There were many tense moments for Maxwell and others as they tried to get out of the Midtown apartments.

Maxwell adds, "some of it was wet smoke and we tried to go in on a lower floor and when you open the door to the stairwell it just hit you." 

"When I came outside saw the fire coming out the window and all the people coming out I knew it was real," says resident Kate Grosvenor.

It was a real fire indeed as three residents had to be wheeled away on stretchers.

High rise apartments are especially tough on fire crews. Three fighterfighters were taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion.

Many on the scene say there would have been more injuries had it not been for Martin Pirela, the head security officer for the high rise.

Pirela helped people to safety.

"Most of them were very grateful, very thankful, that I am on the job," says Pirela.

Most of the residents are seniors. Many of them also have difficulty walking, so with flames and smoke eating up through the building, Pirela took charge.

"Most of them have helpers, someone to assist them, but there were a few of them that needed assistance and I joined in and helped out," says Pirela.

It was a 3-Alarm fire that could have been more severe. Thanks to rescue crews and others taking action, there were only six minor injuries.

Firefighters will be at the apartment building around the clock. They will make shift changes every three hours.

The earliest residents can come back will be Saturday.

Click here to email Andrew Douglas.
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