SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Sixteen families are having to find other living arrangements after a major fire took place Friday morning at an apartment complex on Savannah’s Southside.
Chatham Emergency Services responded around 7 a.m. to a fire at the River Walk Apartments on St. George Boulevard in Georgetown. Firefighters found heavy smoke and flames upon arrival.
Crews said they did not believe anyone was inside when the fire broke out. They started knocking on doors as soon as they arrived on the scene. According to the Chatham Fire Chief, James Vickers, it appears the fire started on the second level of the damaged building.
Firefighters worked to put the flames out for more than two hours.
“Quite a few families did get out because their neighbors were knocking on doors and they were able to get their kids up because they were all asleep, and get out, so it was very fortunate,” Chief Vickers said.
Rubble and debris are all that is left of the apartment building, and area residents said they were in shock when they realized the apartment was engulfed in flames.
“I was actually woken up by my fiance. He came in the room screaming there was a fire outside,” said Brandi Slover, who lives in the complex.
“I’ve only been here about two years or so, and I’ve never seen a fire like this. I’ve never seen a fire that close either. You could feel the heat from the building I was standing at, so it was intense,” Dominique Mitchell, who lives nearby.
Smoke could be seen from miles away.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking. I couldn’t imagine if it was me. My heart is crushed for them, honestly, like, I couldn’t imagine,” said Slover.
Slover said she and many other neighbors came out in complete disbelief. When she saw what was happening, she jumped in to help.
“Eventually, one of the girls came out that was living in the bottom unit, and she has a little girl, and I happen to have some kids clothes and some clothes laying around, so we went through the closet, donated a bunch of stuff back to the front office,” Slover said.
With the scale of the fire, many witnesses said it was fortunate more people weren’t impacted.
“The people who were supposed to live in the building didn’t move in yet, but they were supposed to, but they never made it into the apartment yet," said Kierra Simon, who lives in a building nearby. "It just so happens that it caught on fire. There weren’t any people that lived upstairs where the fire actually started, so luckily, nobody was inside.”
The Chatham County Police Department was asking motorists to avoid the area around St. George Boulevard while crews battle the blaze.
The Red Cross is assisting the families that lost everything.
Chief Vickers says the units had smoke detectors, but he says this is a good reminder that they can save lives if you have them and if they work properly.
“Smoke detectors work. Close your doors before you sleep at night. It’ll protect you. Get out as soon as you hear the smoke alarm go off,” Vickers said.
Vickers says the fire was big enough that they called in back up, getting Savannah Fire trucks to come help.
Chatham Emergency Services, Chatham County Police, and Savannah Fire Rescue all responded.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.