The smell of smoke and soot lingered in the air at Brittany Place Apartments on Tuesday morning. With it were expressions of thanks.
Fire ripped through several apartments at the complex just before 3 a.m. Tuesday while many residents were sleeping, ravaging eight units and displacing nearly two-dozen people. However, officials say no one was injured and everyone made it out of the building safely – including one resident who jumped from a second floor balcony to escape the blaze.
Ajsonta Goodwin was awakened by people yelling outside her second floor apartment in building No. 1955. After hearing someone yell “Fire,” the 20-year-old resident grabbed her phone, keys and purse and opened the front door that led into the breezeway.
“I couldn’t go out the front door. Everything was black,” she said of the smoke that filled the breezeway.
Goodwin said she went to the balcony and began screaming for help, but the firefighters and paramedics weren’t yet there.
“It was either wait until they come or just take that chance and jump off the porch,” she said. With no shoes on and only her phone and the clothes on her back, Goodwin climbed over the railing and jumped, landing on the ground below. She wasn’t injured.
“It went very fast,” she said. “People were crying, screaming, yelling. There was this older guy, we were beating on his window.”
Goodwin’s apartment was one of the eight damaged by fire. Four others had water and smoke damage, according to fire officials. Harry Smith Jr.’s first-floor unit was one of those.
“My (smoke) alarm woke me up,” he said. “I saw the flames when I opened my front door. I just ran around off my balcony.”
Smith said no furniture in his apartment was damaged, only the floors.
“I didn’t get hurt,” he said. “That’s the main thing.”
Edward Cephas said he was awakened by neighbors knocking on his door when the fire broke out.
“Right away, they were trying to make sure I was out, beating on the door and all that,” he said. “My sister lives right across the street, so I just calmly walked out and knocked on the door.”
Cephas’s apartment had water damage to the floors. He was initially worried after not being able to find his cat, Felicity, but said Rock Hill firefighters later found her. Though Cephas is staying with his sister until he can move into a new apartment, Felicity is still in his current unit.
“We just moved the litter box and stuff around so she wouldn’t walk in the kitchen water,” he said. “She’s already traumatized.”
The cause and origin of the fire remain under investigation. The American Red Cross is assisting the displace residents displaced.
Katie Vawter, 30, was out of town when her roommate, Goodwin, texted her at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. Vawter had just moved into the apartment at the end of October.
She waited in a heavy drizzle late Tuesday morning as a firefighter brought some belongings from the apartment, which suffered its heaviest damage in the living room.
“The ceiling is kind of caving in. There’s soot on the couch,” she said. “I’m just glad it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.”
Vawter was also relieved her roommate wasn’t injured jumping from the second floor, a sentiment that Goodwin echoed.
“I’m just thankful to be alive,” Goodwin said. “My life is not replaceable, but everything else in that apartment is replaceable. I’m still here, I’m still living.”