Pittsylvania County fire leaves families scrambling for housing

PITTSYLVANIA CO., Va. – An entire apartment building has been destroyed after a fire.

“It’s like when you first open an oven and you get that blast of hot air,” said Joshua Gaither, a former resident of the destroyed apartment building. “It’s just like that but constant as you’re next to it.”

Officials said the fire started on Sunday around 5 a.m.

“Totally destroyed, we have lost 12 apartments,” said Chis Key, the public safety director for Pittsylvania County. “Those affected it should be 24 families.”

The county’s public safety director said when they arrived, it was too late to save the apartment, so they focused on keeping the fire from spreading.

“The main thing was to try and save the second building,” said Key. “This building they [were] attacking but they were mainly making sure they could save the second building.

It took dozens of firefighters to stop the spread and put out the blaze.

[Two hospitalized, dozens displaced after Pittsylvania County apartment fire]

“At one time we had over 100 firefighters on scene,” Key said.

The Gaither family is one of many who lost their home that night. They said they woke up to chaos.

“It was just run as fast as you can and get out of the flame and not breathe in as much,” said Arnisha Gaither, a former resident at NorthPointe Apartments.

She said as soon as they got out of the building, they frantically started searching to see if others made it to safety. They lost everything.

“Everything,” said Arnisha Gaither. “We lost our wedding rings because we don’t sleep with them, my wedding dress.”

“I came out with clothes and a pair of shoes and that was it,” Joshua Gaither said.

Officials from the county said the building did have smoke detectors and was up to code, however, when the building was built, sprinkler systems were not required.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

About the Author:

Thomas grew up right here in Roanoke and is a graduate of Salem High School and Virginia Tech.