No injuries in fire; resident alerts neighbors
by Wes Mayer
An entire Newnan apartment building burned down Thursday morning, destroying eight apartments and one townhouse. Thanks to one of the residents, everyone was able to get out safely.
“The important thing is that there were no injuries,” said Newnan Fire Chief David Whitley.
Battalion Chief Denise Burks and 18 Newnan firefighters, some of them off duty, responded to the fire at Building 46 of the Jefferson Point apartments on Jefferson Parkway around 2:30 a.m., Whitley said. Fortunately, one of the building’s residents, Chris Render, woke up around 2:15 a.m. and was able to get everyone out of their apartments and away from the building.
“What woke me up was a crackling noise,” Render said. “I thought it was the fireplace because we had a fire earlier, but then I saw the smoke in the bathroom.”
Render said he then checked outside and saw even more smoke coming out of the side of the adjacent townhouse — the two-story apartment at one end of Building 46. Render then saw more black smoke coming out of his bathroom, so he immediately gathered his wife and four children, and they ran out of their apartment.
“We were outside in just our pajamas,” Render said. “The kids didn’t even have time to look for shoes.”
After getting his family outside, Render went around and warned his neighbors, including the apartment’s maintenance worker who lived in the town home, and everyone was able to exit the building safely. Most people didn’t even realize there was a fire, he said.
One of Render’s children called 911, Render said, and within two to three minutes, Newnan Police officers arrived, followed by Newnan firefighters.
Render said firefighters began spraying water into windows, but within five minutes the fire burned through the roof. Firefighters were able to put the fire under control after about an hour and a half, Whitley said, but the building was ultimately a total loss. There were plenty of firefighters on scene; the fire was just too far ahead of them.
Render said he and his family are staying with relatives for now, and the insurance company will help them stay in a hotel room until the Jefferson Point apartment managers can get them into a new furnished apartment.
Render wasn’t sure what his neighbors were doing, but when he talked to them, they said they were going to check with the listing department on finding a new place to stay. The Salvation Army and the Georgia Three Rivers Chapter of the American Red Cross, which serves Coweta County, also coordinated and are helping the families whose homes were destroyed in the fire, according to Stephanie May, director of the Newnan Salvation Army service center, located nearby on Jefferson Street.
According to Lisa Matheson with the Georgia Three Rivers Chapter, the Red Cross chapter set up a disaster action team at the Jefferson Point apartments. The team assisted 32 victims of the fire on Thursday — 19 adults and 13 children — and helped victims meet financial needs, supplied them with necessities like food and clothing, assisted with emotional help, and helped the victims find a new place to stay.
“Even though the area is still recovering from the recent snowstorm, the American Red Cross is on the job to help people in the face of emergencies,” said Jessica McFadden, disaster program manager. “There were nine apartments … destroyed. We are very thankful that everyone made it out safely.”
Fire personnel fought hot spots at the Jefferson Point building into midday Thursday. Whitley said he did not know of any issues with firehoses freezing, but water did freeze on the ground around the building, making it slippery.
Temperatures in Coweta early Thursday were reported in the single digits, the official low being 4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, said Newnan Fire Marshal Tim Cox.