Residents assess damage after devastating fire - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Residents assess damage after devastating fire

A major fire Monday afternoon destroyed eight units at the Birches Apartments in Memphis.  At the scene, neighbors said a group of teens may have set the fire intentionally, throwing a flaming bottle of gasoline into one of the units after an argument with one of the renters.

One day after the fire, tenant Edward Bell had only the clothes he was wearing, after the blaze burnt him and 14 other families out of their homes.

No one could salvage anything from their charred units Tuesday because the building was too unstable.

"I've been in the military 14 years," Bell said. "I had a lot of military awards, family pictures, and a lot of personal stuff.  It's hard."

Bell was without renter's insurance, something he said he could not fit into his budget.

The loss struck a cord for Bartlett resident Juanita Baker.  Though she lives 35 miles away, she said she understood Bell's plight.  Baker's home fell victim to a fire last year.
"It was very devastating and just losing everything that you have, it's hard to bounce back from that," she said.

Though she had homeowner's insurance, Baker still needed help.

"I was so blessed by my neighbors and my family and friends to offer assistance to us to get back up on our feet," she said. "Now that we're on the road to recovery, I wanted to offer some kind of assistance to them."

Baker planned to donate $2,000 to the Red Cross.  Locally, the organization is running two flood shelters, and is helping 34 other families from other apartment fires.

"When we can't help ourselves, that's what we're here in the community to do, is to help one another," she said.

The Red Cross finds itself particularly strapped at the moment, dealing with recent storms and fires.

"I heard several weeks ago the Red Cross was limited on their funding, and that's another reason I wanted to reach out," Baker said.

Bell said the aid would help, but it wouldn't bring back irreplaceable keepsakes.

"It's all your personal things you've worked so hard to gain to make your house nice, and you just lost it for 30, 40 minutes," he said.

The Memphis Fire Department's arson squad may take up the investigation into the blaze.  Police have no suspect information, and no one has been charged.

Click here to send an email to Kontji Anthony.

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