About every other day in DeKalb County, an apartment building catches on fire.
Thirty-three percent of all fire calls made to the DeKalb County Fire Department are for apartment fires, according to William H. Smith, deputy chief of operations.
The department receives about 15-20 calls per month about “working fires” in multi-family dwellings larger than duplexes. A working fire is an actual fire that requires “the pulling of hoses and extinguishing something,” Smith said.
Some of the fires this year include the following, according to the fire department:
• In January, residents were forced to jump out windows to escape a fire at the Park at Briarcliff Apartments on Willow Lake Drive. The fire swept through 18 units. Residents said they had to jump because the smoke was overwhelming when they opened their front and back doors.
• A late-night fire in April at the Kensington Station Apartments left most of the 57 residents of a 24-unit building homeless. The fire began on the third floor and spread to the attic and roof. Residents blamed the fire on faulty wiring.
• In June, 16 units of the Wynview apartment complex in Stone Mountain were destroyed by a fire described as “suspicious” by officials. Nearly two dozen residents were displaced by the blaze and a DeKalb County firefighter was sent to the hospital with heat exhaustion. Firefighters had been called to the area several times that day because of grass fires.
• Two firefighters were injured and taken to hospitals in October when a wall fell on them at a two-alarm fire at the Liberty Landing Apartments on Hambrick Road in Stone Mountain. The fast-moving fire destroyed 18 units.
• In November, firefighters battled a blaze at Austin Oaks Apartments on Glenwood Road that destroyed or damaged at least eight units and displaced about 30 people. The fire started on the second floor.
About 80 percent of the calls are “non-working fire calls,” Smith said. Examples of these calls may involve burnt food on a stove smoking up an apartment, an overheating light ballast or a furnace motor burning.
Because there is a very large potential of loss of life, the fire department responds in force to all apartment fire calls by sending more than $4.55 million in equipment to each call, including three engines, two ladder trucks, a heavy rescue truck, an ambulance, and the cars of two battalion chiefs and an assistant chief.
“Apartment fires are a big part of what we do,” Smith said. “It’s the nature of the beast…when you congregate many people in a building.”