Athens apartment fire displaces tenants from home - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Athens apartment fire displaces tenants from home

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Officials said the Wednesday morning fire was accidental. Officials said the Wednesday morning fire was accidental.
ATHENS, AL (WAFF) -

State fire marshal investigators say the cause of an apartment fire Wednesday morning in Athens was accidental.

It broke out at the Camelot Apartments complex on Elm Street. Everyone in that building had been evacuated. Investigators said they had ruled out anything suspicious.

The man who lives next door to the apartment where the fire started said he was sleeping when it broke out. He didn't know exactly what was happening when he woke up, but he knew something was wrong. Richard McElyea heard glass breaking, and at first, thought someone was breaking in.

McElyea said, "I took the screen out and stuck my head out the back window. I looked more and I saw smoke billowing out of the window, and then I just started panicking."

McElyea called 9-1-1, and began knocking on doors, starting with his neighbor's.

"I started knocking on her door and nobody answered, and I turned her knob to see if it would open and it did. When I opened it, I was taken back by the smoke, it was bad", added McElyea.

Luckily she wasn't home, but people in 19 other units were. Fire investigators say McElyea's actions may have saved lives. Soon after, attention turned to helping the victims. It will be several days before any of them can live at the apartment complex again. As for eight apartments, nobody will be able to live in these units again due to unlivable damages, and two of those are completely destroyed.

The Red Cross is helping some of those displaced by finding them some temporary housing. They've already put eight people in a local hotel for the next few days.

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