Police are investigating the cause of a Tuesday fire that destroyed a six-unit apartment building and displaced more than a dozen residents, one of whom lost his two dogs and two cats in the fire.
The Frankfort Fire Department was called to 424 Harrodsburg Lane around 10:45 a.m. Tuesday and Frankfort Police were called shortly after.
“We’re not considering it arson, but it’s under investigation to determine the exact cause and where it started,” Frankfort Fire Chief Wallace Possich said this morning.
The six-unit apartment building was almost fully engulfed in flame when firefighters arrived. Bystanders saw billowing smoke from as far away as downtown and the east side of town.
Frankfort Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Slone said the fire was “out of control” when they arrived, but crews were able to get it under control in about 30 minutes. Smoke continued to rise from the wreckage hours after the fire had been put out.
At least six residents were inside at the time the fire broke out.
Resident Chad Howard was sleeping in his upstairs apartment after he returned home around 7:30 a.m. from working a night shift.
“At a quarter to 10 I woke up, and I used the bathroom, and everything was fine,” he said, barefoot and shirtless, outside of his destroyed apartment Tuesday. “Next thing I know, there was smoke and fire, and I had to jump out of the window.”
Howard said a group of men doing work on a nearby house caught him as he fell to the ground.
But he was unable to save his roommate Jeff Wiley’s two dogs and two cats.
Wiley got a call from Howard while at work about the fire.
“The first thing he said was, ‘I think your dogs are dead, man. The apartment’s on fire,’” a tearful Wiley said Tuesday, as friends comforted him.
“I’ve lost my family.”
The Tester family was able to escape Tuesday’s blaze. The family of five was asleep in their downstairs apartment when they awoke to people yelling and firefighters busting down the door.
The father, Rick Tester, punched through a window to escape. His hand was still bleeding and wrapped in cloth as he stood outside.
His wife, Bonita, said they’re just glad they made it out.
“I just lost everything, but my family is safe – that’s all that matters,” she said, as the fire raged behind her.
She cried as she hugged one of the children, saying, “I don’t have anything, and I have no money, no food, no place for them to go.”
Joy Torres lives in the building next door, which didn’t catch fire but was also evacuated for safety.
Torres was at work when she heard about the fire from a coworker. Her two children – ages 11 and 12 – were in bed, so she rushed back home.
“My kids were here asleep, so I couldn’t get a hold of them – I was just so scared,” said Torres, talking to reporters outside the burning apartment. She eventually reached her children by phone and rushed to them as they were waiting outside.
Possich said all 13 residents who lived in the apartment are accounted for.
He said a preliminary investigation points to the downstairs back porch area as the starting point. At least one propane tank sitting on an upstairs porch exploded, he said.
“It was a big fire,” he said. “When I got here ... the whole center section was still engulfed in flame.”
HOW TO HELP:
More than a dozen residents were displaced after Tuesday’s fire. The Frankfort Red Cross is assisting these residents in getting food, shelter and clothing. To contribute, call the Red Cross at 223-1795. The Red Cross can only take monetary donations, but can also act as a liaison between the residents and donors.