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1 dead, dozens displaced after massive retirement community fire near Augusta

Published: Jun. 2, 2015 at 9:10 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 2, 2015 at 9:55 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, GA (WTOC) - One person has died and two others were injured, while dozens were displaced after an early morning fire at a retirement community in Evans, just outside of Augusta.

Multiple fire agencies have been on scene for more than 12 hours on Tuesday, making sure the flames are out and sifting through what remains of the Marshall Square Retirement Community as they investigate what caused this fire.

According to the Columbia County Fire Rescue chief, the fire started shortly after 3 a.m., and other investigators believe it started above the awning of the main entrance and spread to the attic.

Residents were evacuated and describe the fire as fast-moving, consuming much of the middle portion and spread to the rest of the building in less than an hour.

"We hadn't been outside long at all when we saw flames start coming up from the center of the front of the building. And they just started moving so fast, just like you'd struck a match, how fast a match burns," said resident Ondrea Bedell.

According to fire officials, the sprinkler system activated, but that along with a massive emergency fire crew response was not enough to save the building or the majority of the homes inside.

Around 11 a.m. search crews and the county coroner determined that one of the residents, 91-year-old Dorothy carpenter, died in the fire. Two other residents were hospitalized, and we have learned one of them is listed in stable condition.

"After seven hours inside of a burning building, ton of water, we did find one person alive on the third floor," said Columbia County Fire and Rescue's Jeremy Wallen. "We did find someone that we classify as victim recovery. And that's the stage of operation at this time would be act of recovery until we complete that thoroughly. Then we will move on to salvaging and begin the rest of the processes."

Along with the tragic loss of life, dozens of homes were destroyed with a lot or all of the residents' belongings inside.

Becky McKenzie, American Red Cross Augusta Chapter Chairperson said, "Some of the main questions that the residents want answered are, is my family here? And can I get my medicine? Those are the two most important things to them right now, and rightly so."

To help the residents affected by the fire, you can donate to the Augusta Chapter of the American Red Cross. Call their office at 706.724.8481, or mail in donations to the American Red Cross of Augusta, 1322 Ellis Street, Augusta, GA 30901. 

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