At least six apartments were destroyed in a two-alarm blaze at a southeast Columbia complex Monday. At least two people had to jump from second-story windows to safety, according to Chief Aubrey Jenkins.
Firefighters responded around 4 p.m. to the Villager Apartments on the 400 block of Burnside Drive, which is off Garners Ferry Road and Interstate 77 near the University of South Carolina School of Medicine.
The apartment building was fully involved when crews arrived, Jenkins said. One person was transported to a hospital by EMS, and a second person went to the hospital on their own.
The extent of injuries of those two people was unknown, but Jenkins said no serious injuries resulted from the blaze. Four firefighters were treated at the scene for dehydration and fatigue.
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Jenkins said firefighters knew of at least two people who had to jump from second-story windows to safety. Octavia Jones was one of them.
Jones, 41, said she was lying on her bed Monday afternoon when the lights went out and smoke began filling her apartment through the air vents and electrical sockets.
“Walking through, you couldn’t see anything,” she said. “So I crawled to the back room, knocked out the window with my elbow and pretty much had to jump from the second floor.”
Jones had some cuts and scrapes on her arm but was otherwise unharmed.
“Seeing other people having to jump out – it was horrible,” she said. “My neighbors had to throw their kids out of the window. Someone had to catch them.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Jenkins said it appears the fire started on the backside of the building, which houses 16 apartment units, two of which were unoccupied.
All 16 units were damaged, and four of the units are a total loss, according to Capt. Brick Lewis, who said smoke from the blaze was visible from as far away as the Lake Murray dam.
The American Red Cross is assisting those who were displaced by the fire.
Residents waited near the complex later to be taken back to see what was left of their homes. Jones could see that the roof above her unit was gone. She doesn’t have renter’s insurance.
“I completely lost everything,” she said, adding that she’ll stay with family for a couple of days. “I just gotta pick up the pieces and keep on going. I’ll figure out something.”