Toxic fumes send six children to the hospital - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Nick Paranjape

Toxic fumes send six children to the hospital

A toxic fire at an apartment complex in the 1100 block of Breedlove sent several children to the hospital Thursday morning.

The fire broke out at the April Woods East Apartments just before 7:00 a.m.

Initially, investigators thought the fire was started by a meth lab.  The Memphis Fire Department Meth Lab Response Team was called to the complex for clean-up.  Later, it was determined the fire was not caused by a meth lab.  Investigators said someone threw a lit cigarette inside one of the units on the ground floor of the complex, causing the fire.

"Somebody came in here and burned my apartment to a crisp," says Linda Woodley.

Woodley and her 16-year-old daughter were not home when her apartment caught fire.

She believes someone else was in her apartment when the fire started. "Somebody came in here and did it. I didn't do it. I lost everything I got," she adds.

Investigators say the fire started in the back bedroom of Woodley's apartment. They believe someone may have been smoking a cigarette when a mattress caught fire.

Fumes containing a very high level of carbon monoxide quickly spread through the complex.

"It seemed like it initiated in the back bedroom, and that fire and its toxic fumes rose up into the adjacent apartments," said Memphis Fire Department Lt. Michael Oliver.

Carbon monoxide levels, which can be deadly at 35 parts per million, where recorded at nearly five times that level.

This is the second fire in less than a week inside Woodley's apartment. "It was a black skillet that caught fire, but it wasn't that bad," says Woodley.

What was bad were the toxic fumes in the fire. Three of the six children taken to the hospital had passed out.

"They was falling, people couldn't wake up, throwing up. My mama her stomach was hurting real bad. They just knocked on our door," says Janisha Branch.

Meco Johnson, who lives at the complex, was running around knocking and banging on doors. "I started beating and kicking on everybody's door get them up out of there," she says.

Johnson banged on more than a dozen doors as firefighters arrived on the scene. He credits his 9-year-old daughter for making him aware of the fire.

"She woke up. Her head was hurting because of the fumes. She said I smell something," explains Johnson.

The fire was quickly knocked down. The owner of the complex, Carl Mabry, knew this could've been much worse. "Our prayers go out to the families and we're going to do everything to help them," says Mabry.

The fire is still under investigation.

As for Linda Woodley, she does have insurance on her apartment. She plans on living in a hotel until she finds a permanent place to live.

Early Thursday afternoon, 24 units in the complex remained under evacuation as the smoke dissipated.


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