Woman, son escape morning fire without injury

By Abby Morris
star staff
amorris@starhq.com

   A woman and her two-year-old child escaped a fire that destroyed their apartment Tuesday morning without injury.
   Firefighters from the Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Department responded to the call at 1360 Broad St. and were joined by firefighters and tanker trucks from the Watauga and Hampton Volunteer Fire Departments.
   The fire destroyed the apartment that Crystal Aleman and her son Carlos lived in, but firefighters were able to prevent the blaze from spreading to the other apartments, some of which suffered water and smoke damage. Aleman's husband was out of town working when the fire started.
   "I was in the bathroom getting ready to take a bath and he was in the living room watching cartoons," said Aleman. While she was in the bathroom, Aleman said, her son came in the room, and she heard a "fluttering sound" from the living room. "I thought he'd let the birds out into the room," she said.
   Aleman said she looked out of the bathroom door and into the living room and saw that the apartment was on fire. "When I came through there were flames all over the ceiling," she said.
   At that point, Aleman said, she went into the bedroom to get blankets to wrap around herself and her son so they could try to get out of the apartment. "By the time I grabbed the blanket, we couldn't get out of the apartment," she said. "So I broke out a window and we had to jump out of it." The apartment was on the second floor of the building.
   Many of Aleman's possessions were lost in the fire. "As far as I know, everything burned up," she said. "I had some birds and some ferrets in there. I felt sorry for them because they were locked up and couldn't get out."
   Within minutes of finding out that Aleman's apartment had been destroyed by fire, several neighbors from the other apartments and nearby houses were getting together to help Aleman bounce back from the incident. Some neighbors were searching to find clothing for Aleman and her son.
   Another neighbor called the Salvation Army to see what kind of help was available, and other neighbors started contacting local churches to request their assistance in helping the family out.
   According to Roger Lambert, assistant chief for the Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Department, the cause of the fire is still under investigation. "(Aleman) stated that the fire began in the room where they keep their electric heater, so that may have been the cause," he said.
   Members of the Carter County Sheriff's Department and Carter County Rescue Squad also responded to the scene.