By CARL SMITH
The Starkville Fire Department responded to a structure fire at Boardtown Village, an assisted living facility located at 905 North Montgomery St., after an emergency call was placed at 2:22 a.m Sunday.
The fire originated in the rear of Apartment 305 in Building 3.
SFD Chief Roger Mann said the fire destroyed two of the apartment’s rooms and spread to the attic. Several other apartments in the building suffered heat and smoke damage. Emergency responders cleared the building and treated several people for smoke inhalation.
Mann said the apartment’s tenant, identified as James Simmons by Boardtown residents, was first transported to Oktibbeha County Hospital and later to a burn center in Augusta, Ga. Mann could not identify the tenant transported from the scene, and Boardtown Village’s management was unavailable for comment Sunday.
“Our guys had to remove him from the apartment,” Mann said. “He was not burned in the fire to my knowledge. He was overcome by smoke.”
Four fire trucks were dispatched to the structure fire, Mann said, and firefighters remained on the scene until almost 8 a.m.
“Right now it’s too early to give a preliminary cause for the fire,” Mann said. “We’re conducting interviews right now. We expect to conclude the investigation quickly.”
Dorothy Kemp, a Boardtown Village resident who lives in Building 3, said she was awoken during the fire by another resident, Sheila Lowe, pounding on her back door.
“I woke up and heard her saying I had to get out,” Kemp said. “I never saw flames, but I smelled something burning and then saw a lot of dark smoke.”
As Lowe continued to warn residents and moved about the building’s perimeter, she said she saw tall flames through the bedroom window of the burning unit.
“I could see the flames racing straight up in the bedroom,” Lowe said. “The smoke was tremendous. I was just coughing and pitiful.”
Since a Boardtown spokesperson was unavailable at the assisted living facility Sunday, the exact number of residents displaced by the fire is unknown at time of press.
Kemp and Lowe said the facility’s management has offered hotel rooms for displaced residents, but both said they would be making other living arrangements for the time being.
Without the quick help of firefighters, both Lowe and Kemp said the damage—structural and human—could have been significantly worse.
“When those firefighters got here, they were running around helping so quickly,” Lowe said. “They were so professional. I just want to thank them for their help.”