Three people were killed and at least six were injured in an overnight fire at a Winchester apartment building, Fire Chief Cathy Rigney said.
Crews found intense flames, broken windows and trapped residents when they arrived at the B&P Apartments on Springmist Lane about 1:15 a.m. Friday, Rigney said. “Our biggest assignment when we first got there was the rescue of victims,” she said.
Tina Reynolds, 29, and Donald Hisle, 36, died of smoke inhalation as a result of the fire, deputy coroner Sarah Crews said. Dixie Everman, 71, was taken from the fire to the hospital, where she later died.
Everman’s cause of death had not yet been determined Friday night, Crews said. She had jumped from a second story window to escape the fire and sustained injuries from the fall.
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The loss of life stunned a neighbor.
“It’s one of the worst tragedies I’ve seen since I’ve lived here,” Sharon Gibson, 49, said as she sobbed. She saw the fire from her nearby home. “I’ve lived here almost five years. I just can’t believe this. I can’t take it in. My heart’s broken. And I know so many hearts are broken.”
Six to eight were injured, Rigney said. One man, whom Crews identified as Reynolds’ husband, was hurt when he jumped from his second-story unit to escape the flames. Others suffered burns and smoke inhalation.
Two people were found dead in the building, Rigney said. One person died at a hospital.
Six people from the 10-unit apartment complex were taken to hospitals in Winchester and Lexington, she said. About 20 people lived in the apartment building.
Gary Epperson, emergency management director for Clark County, said the Red Cross was there early Friday. Epperson said the Red Cross would help the newly displaced residents find places to stay.
Crews from the Lexington fire department and from surrounding counties helped put out the fire and treat injuries.
Andrew Cunningham, 23, who lives in a different building in the same complex, said he looked out to see “the whole building on fire” across the parking lot.
“I’d never seen that big of a fire before,” Cunningham said.
Johnny Hill, 28, of Winchester, was visiting friends in an apartment building next to the one that burned. Hill said he heard a “loud boom,” smelled smoke and saw the fire.
“I started banging on doors and doing everything I could to get everybody out,” Hill said.
Hill had once lived in the apartment complex and knew some of the people who died.
Hill said he didn’t hear smoke alarms sounding.
James Tackett of Bourbon County, who owns the apartment complex with his wife, Kathy, called the fire “a catastrophe” but said each unit is equipped with a smoke detector.
About half the units in the complex have government-subsidized rents through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development or through a local community service organization. HUD performs an annual inspection on those units, he said.
“They won’t pass inspection unless they have smoke detectors,” Tackett said. “They will come over and do an inspection” before a new tenant who qualifies for rental assistance moves in.
But residents have been known to take the detectors down or remove the batteries from them because the detectors will sound when people are cooking, Tackett said.
When he prepares an apartment for a new tenant, “the smoke detector will be in the closet or just won’t be there,” Tackett said.
Several ATF agents were on the scene Friday and they interviewed as many residents of the complex as they could in a door-to-door canvass. The agents themselves declined to say why they were on the scene.
But Tackett said the ATF presence might be due to the manufacture of crack or methamphetamine in apartments throughout Winchester.
“I think that’s maybe why they’re here,” he said.
In addition, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and Scott County Fire Department were assisting. Scott County brought a dog to the scene.
Investigators appeared to be concentrating on a first-floor apartment in the center of the gutted two-story building. A tricycle and a bicycle lay among the blackened debris.
The apartment complex was built in 2000, according to records with the Clark County Property Valuation Administrator’s office.
Teresa Henry, code enforcement officer for the city of Winchester, said she had not received complaints about the apartments in several years. Previous complaints were about a bug infestation.
“We are only complaint-driven,” Henry said. “So unless we get a complaint, we do not go onto the property. I have not had any complaints on that property in years.”
Note: The number of injured has been corrected.