Early Tuesday morning, a fire tore through an apartment building at the Park on Windy Hill apartments off Windy Hill Road in Marietta, leaving at least 50 residents displaced.
The Marietta and Cobb County fire departments responded to a blaze that, upon their arrival, had already burned through the roof of the building. Six trucks from Marietta and seven trucks from Cobb were needed to extinguish the fire, which took nearly an hour.
All of the building’s residents were able to safely evacuate, and no injuries have been reported.
Lt. Marshall Appenzeller and Lt. Richard Franklin of Cobb and Marietta fire, respectively, both said that the cause of the fire was under investigation, and could not speculate as to how it started. Appenzeller said he believed it unlikely the fire was caused by thunderstorms that passed through Cobb on Tuesday morning, as the worst of the storms had passed before the fire started.
In total, 24 units—half of the three-story building—were left in ruins, as parts of the building’s roof had either collapsed or burned. Appenzeller said it was likely the other half of the building would be condemned, displacing an unknown number of residents in another 24 units, despite being mostly undamaged by the fire.
Around 10 a.m., Red Cross personnel responded to provide emergency assistance to the displaced residents. Most sat around a pool behind the complex’s offices, some in stunned silence, others just thankful to have escaped.
Jurald Thomas was one of the residents who lost everything in the fire—clothes, furniture, his birth certificate, and a suite of music equipment. He was asleep when a friend woke him up, saying he smelled smoke.
“It smelled like something’s burning, and then you can hear like a burning sound,” Thomas said. “Smoke started coming through the vents, and it just filled up really quickly.”
With only moments to evacuate the building, Thomas grabbed his two pet parrots, Lucky and Princess. The birds, he said, were not pleased to be disturbed, but he was able to find a small cage for them. Sitting by the pool with them hours later, he said they were his only possessions he had left.
“Everything else is material. And I know there’s stuff that I wanted, but they’re more important than the stuff I lost,” he said.
Thomas also added that he has been unemployed for months since his employer, a travel company, laid off staff because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And as a result, he was forced to cancel his renter’s insurance. He has no idea what will happen next, though Red Cross workers were trying to connect him and others with temporary housing.
Merfilia Nash found herself in the same position. She moved into the complex just four days before the fire, and like Thomas, lost nearly everything. Her belongings will be covered under her insurance, but it made the disaster no easier to stomach.
“I got home from work around 3:30,” she said, “And went to sleep around 5. And then I woke up to my whole apartment being in smoke at, like, 6:30.”
Minutes later, she heard neighbors banging on her door, telling her to get out. She rushed to the parking lot, and saw that one unit on the building’s top floor was already consumed with flames. When she tried to inspect her apartment after the fire was put out, she said the place was “completely demolished.”
Stephen Bennett, a public information officer with the Marietta Fire Department, said that his department will be conducting the investigation into the cause of the fire.