Originally created 02/15/99

Two blazes leave families homeless



Two fires left four families homeless this weekend, and investigators believe both blazes were caused by children playing with fire.

A blaze began Sunday afternoon in the upstairs bedroom of 1825 Cooney Circle, an apartment in the Jennings Homes complex off Olive Road. Richmond County fire officials said the blaze was under investigation, but they believe a child in the home was playing with a cigarette lighter.

The fire destroyed the bedroom and moved into the attic, shorting out electrical wiring. Three other apartments in the building had smoke damage. But because the building no longer had electricity, all three families in the building were left homeless, Batallion Chief Otis Spence said.

Delores Williams lived in the apartment with her nine children. The Sturges and Harris families lived next door. No one was injured in the blaze.

The adults were able to get all 21 children living in the building out of their homes safely, apartment manager Alice Wells said.

The American Red Cross was called to help find a place for the families to stay Sunday night, when temperatures were expected to drop to about 20. The families were to be housed in a motel until they could move into another apartment in the complex, Ms. Wells said.

Damage was estimated at nearly $100,000, said Rick Dorris of the Augusta Housing Authority. Firefighters put out the fire within 15 minutes, and no other structures were in danger.

Six more people were left homeless Saturday after a blaze destroyed their residence at 2512 Dexter Drive in Augusta. The 5:30 p.m. fire was caused by children playing with matches, said fire officials.

Jessica Rinck can be reached at (706) 823-3225 or newsroom@augustachronicle.com.