When Alex Esperanza heard his neighbor yell “My apartment’s on fire,” he was sitting in his apartment playing a video game.
“I was on my PlayStation with my headphones on playing Fortnite, and I heard her yelling ‘My apartment’s on fire, my apartment’s on fire,’” Esperanza said. “I thought maybe it was just a fire at her place, but I went out and saw that it was spreading all up that back wall.”
His Saturday afternoon at Deerfield Apartments on Emerald Road was suddenly interrupted by his building being engulfed in flames. Esperanza went back inside, afraid for his family but keeping calm to help them get out safely. He looked at his mom and sisters and told them to grab their most valuable belongings and get out as quickly as they could.
In the rush, he said his mind just focused on getting his family out safe, but in the ensuing moments, he saw the building go up in flames and dozens of firefighters rush into the scene to douse the flames.
Esperanza and his family were among the residents being helped by the American Red Cross while firefighters continued to stamp out hot spots throughout the building.
The fire started at the back of building G at a first-floor patio, said Greenwood County Fire Coordinator Steve Holmes. He said often, to find the source of a fire, firefighters look for a V-shaped pattern in the damage — the bottom of the V is typically the origin of the fire.
Buildings like this one, Holmes said, are difficult to stop a fire in before the flames spread throughout the attic. He said the flames seemed to go up the back wall, into the eaves and burning out the attic, where there were no barriers to stop the quick spread of the blaze.
If many firefighters can get on scene quickly, Holmes said they can pull down the ceiling from within the building and douse the fire from inside. With how quick the flames spread in this case, however, the attic was already burning when firefighters arrived, meaning they were unable to get inside and attack from underneath.
At about 5 p.m., firefighters were still working to put out hot spots and Holmes said they’d likely be there for several hours more before they could clear out. No one was injured in the blaze, and the Red Cross is working to help the displaced residents.