Smyth County

Two fires within 24 hours at Marion apartment complex

Apartment Fire 10-28-13

SMYTH COUNTY, Va. - We have new facts on two fires that happened in the same apartment within 24 hours of each other.

The Marion Fire Department in Smyth County says one person was flown to Wake Forest Burn Center with major burns and three others also had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

Several families are displaced and are calling a motel home for now after two fires this weekend. "Right within 24 hours, all over a cigarette both times," says Cynthia Shafer, who lives in the apartment complex.

Shafer lives in these apartments across the hall from her mom and step-dad. She tells us Friday she smelled smoke coming from her parents' apartment. "There was a foot of flame up off the mattress in and the garbage can but me and my daughter put it out," adds Shafer.

Shafer believes that fire started after her step-dad dumped ashes in a trash can after putting out a cigarette. The Marion Police Department is continuing their investigation into the exact cause.

That alarm wasn't the only one -- the next day Shafer heard the smoke detector going off from her parents' apartment again. "There were two feet of flames up on the mattress where my step-dad was just laying. We hollered at him and he wouldn't get up, so we had to drag him, turn him over and make him get up and get out," she said.

This time the fire was more serious and caused her to evacuate all of her family and other neighbors. "I wasn't crying. I didn't have time to cry, I had to be strong for everybody, but I was just shaking. I don't know how to describe the emotion," adds Shafer.

Shafer credits a smoke detector for saving her life and her family's lives, and she stresses just how important they are. "If you've got them, test them twice a year. A good time is when you set the time back and forth, because that's when I do mine and make sure the battery is working," says Shafer.

Shafer also has advice to anyone that smokes inside their house -- even though police aren't exactly sure that's what caused the fire, she still wants people to take precautions. "They should make sure their cigarette is extinguished and not dump their ash trays for at least five minutes afterwards," adds Shafer.

Shafer also told us she just renewed her renter's insurance two weeks before the fires. She says the insurance is helping her family take care of the things that were lost or damaged.

Shafer encourages anyone who doesn't have renter's insurance to get it.

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