Five people were rescued from a multi-apartment fire off North Main Street on Friday afternoon thanks to the bravery of their neighbors.
Kenneth Reeder was getting ready for work when his girlfriend stepped outside their Gable Oaks apartment and yelled that there were flames coming from a building across the street. When another neighbor, Stan Gilyard, saw some people peeking out one of the ground-floor windows, they and several others ran to help.
“All you could see was flames,” said Kelvin Watson, one of the neighbors who ran to the rescue. “We were just thinking about getting them out of there.”
Inside the apartment were five people they didn’t know: Brandon Reed, his 2-year-old daughter and 11-year-old godsister, his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s 59-year-old grandmother. They ran to the front door to try to get out, but it was blocked by flames, he said.
“I grabbed my daughter and ran straight to the back room,” Reed said.
Reeder busted out the window with his fist, injuring his right hand but freeing the trapped strangers. While Reed and his girlfriend were helped out with the children, others climbed inside to carry the older woman to safety. It wasn’t until after they were all out of the apartment that emergency responders arrived.
An unattended candle inside a neighboring apartment caused the fire, which was reported just before 1 p.m. at the apartments at 901 Colleton St., Columbia Fire Department spokesman Brick Lewis said.
Four apartments in the front of the burned building were heavily damaged by fire and smoke, and the four in the back sustained minor fire, smoke and water damage, Lewis said. He estimated total damages to be more than $300,000.
Reed’s toddler daughter and his girlfriend’s grandmother were taken to a hospital for care and were doing fine late Friday afternoon, he said.
The American Red Cross is assisting the 12 people who have been displaced from their homes.
“I don’t know what could have happened if nobody came by and knocked on the window to see if somebody was there,” Reed said.
Later in the day, Reed thanked his rescuers.
“We’re all friends” now, Watson said.