Smyrna woman recalls Thanksgiving Day blaze
by Rachel Gray and Jeff Stanton
November 30, 2013 12:13 AM | 1438 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Gia Santiago, right, kisses her dog, Roxy, while her son, Christian, holds the 18-month-old pet across the from where their home was destroyed by fire early Thanksgiving Day morning. <br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Gia Santiago, right, kisses her dog, Roxy, while her son, Christian, holds the 18-month-old pet across the from where their home was destroyed by fire early Thanksgiving Day morning.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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SMYRNA — An early morning fire at an apartment complex in the Cumberland area left eight families out in the cold after losing their homes on Thanksgiving Day.

The call for the two-alarm fire came in at 2:45 a.m. Thursday, and the blaze took an hour and a half to get under control, said Eric Farmer, a battalion chief with the Smyrna Fire Department.

The Smyrna Fire Department responded with three engines and a ladder truck, and the Cobb County Fire Department assisted with two more engines and a medical unit, Farmer said.

Farmer said the entire roof was “burned off” and the residents will not be able to return home.

Gia Santiago, who lived on the top floor of a unit that was destroyed, sat on the steps across the street from her burned out apartment Friday afternoon.

She, her two sons and dog, Roxy, were able to get out of the apartment with the clothes on their backs.

Santiago said she was awakened at about 2:45 a.m. when her 20-year-old son’s girlfriend said she heard crackling noises coming from the kitchen. Santiago said she got out of bed to investigate.

“I went to the kitchen and there was no fire,” Santiago recounts. “I opened up the laundry room and there was a little smoke. I bent down and looked at the dryer vent in the wall — the fire was in the wall around the circle. I grabbed the fire extinguisher and tried to put it out and it did nothing. Nightmare.”

Farmer did confirm the initial call said the fire started in a wall behind a dryer, but a complete investigation would not be done until Monday.

After firefighters doused the flames, the frigid weather caused a complicated cleanup effort, with the Smyrna Public Works department melting the ice that had formed from the water with sand, Farmer said.

Losing prized possessions

Eight units of the Mission Galleria Apartments were “seriously affected” by the fire, but only seven units were occupied, said Sherry Nicholson, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Atlanta Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Five Red Cross volunteers assisted eight families, one family was visiting for the holiday, giving the 32 displaced people food, warm clothing, and hotel lodging for four nights, Nicholson said.

The people affected were mostly adults and there were no injuries reported.

“Next week the case workers will help to get the residents back on their feet,” Nicholson said.

For Santiago, the fire had a devastating result for her 14-year-old son, Christian Rosado, who is a band student at Wheeler High School.

“Of all the technology in his room, his clarinet was the heartbreaker,” Santiago said. “This morning, a couple showed up here and gave him a brand new Buffet clarinet. I could have saved for years and couldn’t’ have afforded a Buffet.”

The Mission Galleria complex, built in 1972, houses 11 three-story apartment buildings on nearly 30 acres of land, and is appraised at $18.8 million for tax purposes, according to the Cobb County Tax Assessors office.

Texas-based Mission Galleria 34 LLC, which owns the complex, paid $203,768 in county property taxes last year.

The area where Mission Galleria Apartments sits, on the corner of Cobb Parkway and Windy Ridge Parkway, is now prime real estate, located directly across from the future Atlanta Braves stadium in Cobb.

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