Terri Donovan received a rather perplexing call from her apartment complex manager Wednesday afternoon.
The manager had called to inform her that her dog, Tucker, was safe in the office. What Donovan wanted to know next was how her 70-pound golden retriever had managed to get out of her second-story apartment.
That was when she was told about an afternoon fire at Emerald Lakes Apartments in Greenwood. Firefighters had broken a window in her unit and had carried her dog down a ladder. While flames had never reached her apartment because it was by a firewall, the firefighters had used it as a staging area to pull hoses up and spray water on nearby units that were on fire.
Twenty-four families living in a building at the apartment complex near Sheek Road and Main Street were displaced in the fire, which broke out shortly after 2 p.m. Wednesday. The cause is undetermined, but the Greenwood Fire Department is still investigating, spokesman Chad Tatman said. The department has determined that the fire started outside, near the ground, and worked its way to the roof, where it was wind-driven and spread.
The county was under a wind advisory Wednesday afternoon, which means the area experienced sustained winds of 25 to 30 mph and gusts near 45 mph.
Donovan was relieved that her dog was safe, but concerns about the condition of her apartment and what belongings she would have left ran through her mind on the drive to the apartment from work.
“I was trying to drive calmly the whole time,” she said.
She arrived to find that the ceiling of her apartment was gone. Nearly everything she owned was drenched in water. Donovan managed to get three outfits and some important documents from her apartment. She planned to go through the unit again Friday afternoon to see what can be salvaged.
The Red Cross paid for a hotel stay Wednesday night and provided some money to cover incidental purchases, like a tooth brush or clothing, Donovan said. When Red Cross volunteers learned she was a Navy veteran, they also put her in touch with another agency that assists veterans.
“The Red Cross was really good,” she said. “They were out there interviewing everybody. They were very nice.”
While Donovan was initially composed when talking with the Red Cross volunteer, it was when he offered to get her any help she needed that her emotions got the best of her.
“I’ve never had to ask anybody for help so I started crying,” Donovan said. “I’m making it, dealing with it, but there are times where I get upset about the whole situation.”
Since the night after the fire, she has been staying with a friend, working half-days at her job, and trying to determine how much of her belongings her renter’s insurance will replace.
Emerald Lakes has told Donovan that she has about 10 days to get her belongings out of her apartment, and her insurance is giving her up to 45 days in which it will cover the cost of moving to another apartment.
Messages left for the apartment complex manager weren’t returned Friday.
The Red Cross has provided assistance to 16 of the 24 individuals and families that were displaced, spokesperson Duchess Adjei said. The other eight hadn’t reached out for support, but are still encouraged to do so, she said.
Red Cross volunteers were on the scene almost immediately after the Greenwood Fire Department notified them. The organization’s assistance ranged from help with paying for hotel rooms and clothing to guidance on working with insurance agencies, she said.