Fire consumes apartment building in Gray

By Julie Fann

Star Staff

A Sunday morning fire consumed an apartment building at 108 Furchess Drive, Gray, Tenn., leaving approximately 30 people homeless, according to authorities.
     "There were approximately 30 people out on the front lawn with what little they could carry out of the apartment before it went up. About ten or 12 of them were kids ages 2 to in their teens," said Kevin Sanders, an officer with the Washington County Sheriff's Department.
     The fire started around 11:30 a.m. Sunday, and one of the tenants of the building called 9-1-1. The Gray, Sulfur Springs, Jonesborough, and Embreeville Volunteer Fire Departments responded, as well as the Washington County EMS, the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army.
     "It spread through the roof and eventually burned the whole building to the ground," Sanders said. The source of the fire was not known; however, authorities didn't suspect foul play to be a factor in the incident.
     "It was an older building built prior to the time of fire code enforcement, which is the reason it spread so quickly," said Sanders.
     The apartment building contained ten separate units.
     According to Sanders, several vehicles also were destroyed in the fire because the environment was too hazardous for firefighters to get in and move them.
     Pamela Hale, Executive Director of the Johnson City/Washington County American Red Cross, said that all of the families had somewhere to go after the fire.
     "We did not have to open up a shelter. We were prepared to, but that didn't occur. I suspect in the morning we will start providing emergency needs," Hale said. "We provide clothing, food, money to re-locate. We work with the victims individually on a case-by-case basis."
     Hale said the difficulty that exists for Red Cross workers is finding out who the actual residents of the building are because so many people arrive at the scene of such a horrible event.
     Hale was anticipating a fax to be sent to her from the owner of the building Sunday evening that would list the names of the actual tenants.
     Those who were tenants of the building were encouraged to call the Red Cross office in Johnson City at 928-3561.