Investigators search for cause of massive apartment fire

Source: Judy Giacomelli
Source: Judy Giacomelli

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

MIDLOTHIAN, VA (WWBT) - Chesterfield fire investigators continue to search for the cause of an early morning fire that left about 40 people homeless.

It happened around 6:00 a.m., at the Old Buckingham Station apartments in Midlothian. The fire was under control within two hours, but still smoldering Wednesday afternoon as investigators began figuring out what happened.

When the building's on fire, and the ceiling is caving can't blame Kyle Colbert for forgetting about his feet.

"Kind of nerve-racking. Didn't have time to grab much, just kinda ran out in flip flops, and t-shirt at the time," Colbert said.

Kyle and about 40 other people watched as the fire tore through their apartments. Like Laurie Shelton, they all shivered in the bitter cold.

"Trying to get out of the house, thinking it wasn't as bad as it was until we walked outside,  and saw everything gone," Shelton said.

Trees are now collapsing around a building where the roof did the same just hours earlier. Only in this case, they're being cut down to make way for safety equipment.

"It will help stabilize the building a little bit so our fire marshals can get in there without the  possibility of those walls collapsing," said Lt. Jason Elmore of Chesterfield Fire/EMS.

This was not the first major fire at the complex. There have been two others. In December of '97, a fire at Old Buckingham Station left 34 people homeless. It was quickly linked to a child playing with a lighter. A cause for this latest fire is not expected so soon.

For now, dozens of neighbors are figuring out how to move on with little more than the clothes on their backs.

"It's very devastating, and we've only been here two months, we just started over," Shelton said.

"Don't really know where to go from here, so, we'll see," added Colbert."

At this point, investigators believe the fire began outside the building, but they need more time to figure out what started it. Residents, meanwhile, are staying in vacant units, or, at a hotel with the help of the Red Cross.

The other major fire at Old Buckingham Station happened in 1995. 100 people were left homeless in that incident.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.