Fire at Poplar Forest Apartments

By Matt Butner - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

FARMVILLE, VA (WWBT) - More than thirty people are homeless tonight after an early morning fire in Farmville. The good news is they are all alive, and many are crediting one of their neighbors for helping get them out.

Shawn Thompson, a volunteer firefighter, keeps his department radio at his bedside every night. Early this morning, it jarred him awake.

"All I heard was 'Fire at Poplar Grove,' so I immediately got up, got dressed, got my things and headed out the front door. That's when I saw all the action," said Thompson.

When he realized it was his own building that was on fire, he knew he had to help his neighbors.

"He was very heroic, selfless. He banged on the door for a really long time, all the doors, screaming for people to get out," said apartment resident Tricia Verno.

Firefighters say the blaze spread upward from one of the lower floors. One resident had to be rescued from his second floor apartment. He was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

By noon, the smoke had cleared, and residents were let in, a few at a time, to see what they could salvage. Tiffany King's two cats were found safe, more than six hours after the fire started.

"They've been with me since they were kittens, so they're very, very important to me, and I'm very grateful to have them back," said King.

For Shawn Thompson, this has been an eye-opening experience, one that gives him new perspective on his work as a firefighter.

"When I respond to other house fires or other people's losses, I can sympathize a lot more and see what they go through now that I've gone through it," said Thompson.

The Red Cross worked the scene all day, and at last check had found a place to stay for all but two of the fire's 30-plus victims. Investigators are still looking for what caused the fire.

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