Elderly apartments cleared because of fire

Published 1:23 am Saturday, October 6, 2007

NATCHEZ — As firefighters fought flames at Carpenter Apartments Friday night, a citizen rescue of its own was happening around back.

Benji Sanders and his son Brandon were in their house behind the elderly apartment complex watching TV when a neighbor notified them of the fire.

He and his son ran to the 702 N. Union St. complex with their 30 foot extension-ladder.

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When they arrived one elderly man was leaning out of his third floor window. They used the ladder to help him down.

Then, they helped a bedridden man on the second floor dress himself, and aided firefighters in putting him in a wheelchair and taking him out of the building.

The fire was contained to only one unit in the apartment and was extinguished in about 15 minutes, Natchez Fire battalion chief Oliver Stewart said.

The fire originated in the apartment of Delores Marvel, a resident at the complex.

Marvel said she was watching the news when she heard the smoke-alarm in her kitchen.

Marvel said when she went to the kitchen she saw the hallway totally filled with smoke.

Marvel said she and her son, Bryan, immediately fled the apartment.

While only Marvel’s apartment was destroyed in the blaze, firefighter Todd Rymer said the situation could have been much worse.

“It’s a good thing she had that door closed,” Rymer said.

Rymer said the closed door helped to contain the fire to only one unit and reduced the amount of smoke in the building.

Aside from the smoke, the rest of the complex was unaffected.

Don Winters, director of disaster services for the Red Cross, was at the scene to assess the housing needs of displaced residents.

The Red Cross was prepared to open a shelter to house the residents Friday night, but all except Marvel chose to stay in their apartments.

Marvel stayed with family.

Stewart said they have no knowledge of how the fire started.

Two people were taken by ambulance to Natchez Community Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.