Banging at Delores Hurley’s door at 2 a.m. startled her awake, but she wasn’t sure at first if she could trust the man’s shouts from the other side.
“He was banging on my door and saying ‘Get out, get out, get out, you have to get out,’” she said.
Living on her own, Hurley said she didn’t know what to make of the man shouting through her door. He had scared her and left her heart racing, but she decided to keep the door closed for her own safety. Minutes later, she heard the voice of her 15-year-old granddaughter who lived in an apartment upstairs in the same building telling Hurley to run for safety: the building was on fire.
Phoenix Place Apartments caught fire in the early morning hours of Oct. 26. The blaze sparked in the kitchen of a third-floor apartment in Building 1, where an unattended stove ignited. Smoke detectors alerted the people living there, but an adult and a child were injured getting out of the apartment. They were given medical treatment for moderate and severe burns.
Hurley said if it weren’t for James Byrd, the man who woke her up banging on her door, things could have ended differently for her.
“James was a hero,” she said. “If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have got up.”
But Hurley did get out of her apartment before much damage could be done. She made it to the parking lot without shoes or socks, watching the building’s siding melt off as flames and smoke tore through the top floor. Greenwood Fire Department crews were able to put the blaze out, but the heat, smoke and water damaged much of the property in that building and left families without a place to stay.
Hurley’s niece, Patricia Courtney, drove out to check on her aunt. As she was walking with her to the nearby 7-Eleven, she noticed her aunt was struggling.
“Once we started walking, we noticed she couldn’t breathe,” Courtney said.
Hurley was taken to the hospital, where she learned that the panic of escaping the flames had put undue stress on her heart. While she was in the hospital being treated, her family went back to her apartment to find many of her belongings were damaged by water and smoke. In the apartments on upper floors, flames and heat destroyed many peoples’ clothes, furniture and other items.
It’s from this tragedy that Wanda Moore and two other women are trying to drum up support and donations for the families who were ousted by the fire.
“Me and some other people already do an outreach ministry at Phoenix Place,” Moore said. “One thing about Greenwood and the surrounding areas, we’ve got a lot of people who reach out to help others.”
Together, these women gathered the clothing sizes of the adults and children whose apartments were damaged in the fire, along with contact information for people wanting to donate or help in any way.
“We never know what situation we’re going to be in,” Moore said. “That could have happened to anybody.”