Ponderosa

Family members of Geraldine Hamilton remove items Wednesday morning from her ruined home in the Ponderosa Apartments in Commerce. Even her dog escaped from the fire unharmed. Neighbors were alerted by neighbors and no one was injured.

Twenty-five people from eight families were displaced as the result of a Wednesday morning fire at the Ponderosa Apartments.

According to Commerce Police Chief Kerry Crews, firefighters from Commerce, Greenville, Campbell and Wolfe City were called in to help battle the blaze, which started around 5:42 a.m. at the complex located in the 2200 block of Live Oak Street.

“First arriving units found the center section of the 400 building of Ponderosa Apartments fully engulfed,” Crews said. “Firefighters conducted a primary search as lines were being laid for attacking the fire.”

Ten units were destroyed in the fire, according to Crews.

The American Red Cross was called in to provide assistance to the families who were displaced by the fire, as well as rehab to firefighters. City Secretary Marty Cunningham was on hand to provide assistance regarding the fire.

A donation center will be established as soon as possible, according to Crews. More information will be provided as it becomes available.

Crews said the cause of the fire is still under investigation. Commerce Fire Department is in charge of the investigation.

“The Red Cross, the fire department, and the police department have been great,” said Rachel May, whose mother, Geraldine Hamilton lived in apt. 405, which was badly damaged. “If its been help or just a hug, they’ve been there. Thank God nobody got hurt.”

She lives in another unit of the complex, and her mother will live with her for the time being.

Hamilton said she woke up with flames shooting through her bedroom wall. She had just “enough time to run into the living room and shoot myself out the back door,” she said. But then, “My dog, my dog, my dog,” she yelled. She and neighbor Jolene Putnam, ran back into the smoke and flames and rescued Hamilton’s dog, Buttercup.

She and her family and several families from the entire one-story unit of apartments, with permission, were traipsing back and forth from the other side of the caution tape which surrounded their burned apartments, to place items in the sopping yard, including plants and furniture which remained undamaged.

Bryan Williams and his mother escaped. He heard a neighbor, it turns out from Apt. 308, tap on the window.

“I peered through the blind and I seen a blaze of fire,” he said. “All this here,” he said, gesturing behind him, “was a big ol’ cloud of smoke and fire.”

He woke his mother and they left.

Barbara Mobley, who lives across the grassy yard from the affected units, had called 9-1-1 on her cell phone she said.

“God showed me to do it,” she said, of feeling the need to look out the window.

She walks slowly with a cane and went over to the units being affected to knock on their doors, she and neighbors said.

Williams said the Red Cross had already given them vouchers for beds, clothes, food, shoes and dishes. He and his mother already have been given another apartment in the complex in which to live.

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