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50 firefighters and a Marine helped families escape an apartment fire

Posted at 5:43 PM, Mar 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-22 17:43:49-04

An early morning fire in Belcamp leaves 15 people without homes. The three-alarm fire spread throughout the 1203 Raven Wood Court apartment building at around 2:30 Thursday morning. Fortunately, everyone got out safely. 

The fire started in a third floor apartment. State Fire Marshal investigators determined the preliminary cause of the fire was discarded fireplace ashes. 

The family in that unit pulled the fire alarm before they evacuated, but many neighbors didn't hear the alarm right away, instead they were woken by a pounding on the door. A neighbor letting everyone know to get up and get out.

“In the middle of the night in our condo, somebody knocked on our door so hard and we like ran outside,” said six-year-old Elliott.

Elliott, his mom, and dog, Marley, looked up to see the roof of their apartment complex on fire.

“And then it was like so big that I was like freaked out. I was like, ‘Oh my God, there's fire,’ and I was so cold my mom gave me that thing she was telling you about,” Elliott said.

In a hurry to get out, Elliott's mom grabbed a shirt thinking they were his pants.

“I went in the fire truck and it was like so warm and there was heat on, I liked it,” said Elliott.

Elliott, his mom, and Marley went back in the afternoon with other residents to assess the damage and pick-up some games for their hotel room.

There's water damage, and it could be months before they're living there again, but Jennifer Holland, Elliott’s mom, said they have a lot to be thankful for, especially one person.

“Our neighbor was banging on the door so he pretty much saved our lives last night,” Holland said, a resident of 18 years.

Johnathan James, their upstairs neighbor and U.S. Marine, first saw the flames outside his bedroom window.

“From there, I immediately woke up my mother who was sleeping, got her out of here,” said James.

He saw the family who lived in the apartment above, where the fire began but no one else.

“And I ran back inside, me and my mother, and started knocking on doors, second floor, first floor, banging on everybody’s [doors] to wake them up and get them out of the complex safe,” James said.

Later, fifty firefighters would arrive. They had the three-alarm fire under control within an hour.

Because of the snow and ice, they had to take care while traveling. Fortunately, there was someone already there who had the instinct and experience to act.

“Military experience. It kind of just reminded me of deployment. You just want to protect people and make sure their safe," said James.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries.

Firefighters from Abingdon Fire Company also helped rescue two residents.

The American Red Cross is assisting the families affected by the fire.