Red Cross working to relocate displaced residents from fatal apartment fire

Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 6:46 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - An overnight fire killed one person and displaced nearly 100 Roanoke residents from the Stratford Village apartment building.

The Red Cross helped about 60 residents find a place to stay for the next few days. Volunteers gave them credit cards to stay in hotel rooms in Roanoke as fire officials work to determine when it’s safe for everyone to come back home.

One resident explained how he thought the fire was a false alarm.

“I thought it was just another false alarm like we’ve had in the past, so I took my time getting situated and out the door,” Kyler Himmelbrand said. ”They said we’d only be gone for like a night and turns out it might be a lot longer than that.”

Himmelbrand was in one of the 77 apartments evacuated early Wednesday morning.

“The whole first floor below me looked like something you’d see in a horror movie where you have a rundown apartment building and black tar, charred stuff all over the wall, water all over the floor,” Himmelbrand said.

Roanoke Fire-EMS determined the fire was accidental from smoking materials not thrown away properly.

“We really recommend that if people do choose to smoke, make sure that you dispose of that safely,” Roanoke Fire-EMS Deputy Chief David Guynn said. “When folks do things like smoke around anything that’s flammable or combustible, that’s when we have issues like this occur.”

Two residents were taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries. One of the victims was airlifted to a burn center. Himmelbrand explained his neighbor was one of the victims taken to the hospital.

“We all called him Chico in the building and I think he got in that situation trying to help his mother, like any son would probably do,” Himmelbrand said. “He always looked out for everybody.”

The Red Cross set up a temporary shelter Wednesday morning to help displaced residents.

“Nobody knows what’s to come next,” Himmelbrand said. “We’re all impatiently waiting to see when we’ll be able to go back.”

Other residents are staying with friends and family while fire officials work to determine when it’s safe to go back. However, officials don’t have an estimate on how long that will be.

The executive director of the Red Cross explained many of the displaced residents are part of Roanoke’s vulnerable population.

”That makes it even more difficult when you have elderly folks or folks in wheelchairs,” Jackie Grant said. “The American Red Cross works very well with folks with disabilities.”

Roanoke Fire-EMS has clarified the damages have yet to be determined.