Ariel Terry said she had just returned from walking to the store when she heard a loud noise. There was a boom and then it smelled like something was on fire, she said on the scene at Underwood Lodge Apartments at 1304 Underwood St. on Thursday afternoon. “I got outside and started filming it.” A fire that began just before noon burned the second floor of one of the apartment buildings, and four units were affected, said Bruce Frazier, spokesman for the Dalton Fire Department.
“All occupants are safely out of the building and there are no injuries,” he said at about 1:30 p.m., just before firefighters got the blaze under control. “Only one or two of those units were actually occupied. As far as causes, that hasn’t even begun to be investigated.”
Chief Bruce Satterfield said firefighting units from the downtown station, Abutment Road, Haig Mill Lake Road and the Cross Plains Trail stations were dispatched to the scene, utilizing about two dozen firefighters. He said a “rough initial estimate” of the damage was between $200,000 and $300,000.
“It’s under control but we’ve still got some spot fires we’re trying to get out and a tremendous amount of steam,” Satterfield said at about 1:45 p.m. “The first step (to finding a cause) is to put some of this equipment back in service so it can be used elsewhere. Once it gets cooled down we’ll monitor and make sure the carbon monoxide levels are safe for us to be in there. Then we’ll start the process of trying to go through and figure out how it started. We know it’s upstairs and that it got into the attic early. There was heavy fire and heavy smoke showing when the first unit got here.”
He added firefighters “cut the fire off” to prevent it from spreading to another apartment building.
“There were two families that lived in the building, one upstairs and one downstairs,” Satterfield said. “The cleaning lady was cleaning a vacant apartment and heard a boom but said it sounded more like a door slamming. That may have been from the fire, but she said after she heard it she started smelling smoke. The mother upstairs left at 6:45 (a.m.) to go to work and her two teenagers left for school about 30 minutes later. So there shouldn’t have been anyone in there cooking.”
The firefighters also had residents evacuate the adjacent building, Satterfield added. King Benson lives in one of those apartments.
“I was fixing to take a shower and go get some lunch before I went to work on second shift,” he said. “My neighbor said the building was on fire and I looked out and saw smoke. I got upset — now I’ve missed my shower and my lunch.”
Sarah Egan, emergency services program manager with the Northwest Georgia Red Cross, said the relief agency was helping the displaced apartment residents with temporary lodging.
A call to the apartments late Thursday afternoon went unanswered.