Families displaced by fire in Como 2/21/2014

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 21, 2014

Families displaced by fire in Como

By John Howell
Firefighters spent over four hours Monday afternoon fighting a stubborn apartment fire in Como that displaced 20 residents from eight units and mobilized approximately between 50 and 100 firefighters from up to a dozen fire departments.

The fire report at 4:08 p.m. alerted Como Volunteer Fire Dept. (CVFD) and two additional fire departments, Como Fire Chief Randy Perkins said, per E-911 dispatching policy for structure fires. Perkins said that he arrived at the fire scene at 4:10 p.m. and a Sardis Volunteer Fire Department truck was “right behind me.”

Perkins requested the county-wide mobilization at 4:25 p.m.

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“It was comforting to me to see the large turnout,” Perkins said.

The firefighters knocked down the initial blaze quickly, but the fire had spread into the wall and ceiling from a downstairs apartment where it is believed to have originated from the kitchen where the occupant is believed to have briefly left a cooking oven unattended.

“There was a crawl space between the two floors,” the Como fire chief continued, that allowed the fire to spread quickly. “We’d get it out in one spot and it would flare up in another.”

Thick, dark, acrid smoke poured from the space between the two floors of the apartment. Firefighters broke windows at the rear of apartments and then placed fans at front doors to force out smoke and allow them to locate hot spots inside.

Perkins said that the large response allowed firefighters wearing air packs to rotate and avoid exhaustion.

Como Police Chief Earl Burdette said that one Heather Apartments resident was injured when she was overcome by smoke and fell down a stairway. Med Stat Ambulance personnel treated the victim at the scene. Burdette praised the ambulance crew, whose response was “real quick,” he said.

No injuries to fire fighters were reported.

Fire equipment from the Sardis, Longtown, Crenshaw, Courtland, Batesville, Bynum and Union fire departments, and perhaps others, were at the scene as the sun set Monday.

“Everybody worked well together,” Burdette said.

Panola County Arson Investigator Gerald White said at the scene that his preliminary interviews indicated the fire originated from cooking left unattended.

Apartment resident Michelle Strong said that she was in her upstairs apartment when she saw flames and smoke coming through the heating vents. She said she quickly grabbed a few items and left her upstairs apartment.

Perkins said that the apartments were equipped with smoke detectors, but “it really wasn’t a factor,” with all residents in the building awake when the afternoon fire started.

The Heather Apartments are owned by the Como Apartments Limited Partnership. Norman A. Dyess of Vicksburg is listed as its president and registered agent, according to information from the Mississippi Secretary of State.