By NATHAN GREGORY
Starkville Fire Department officials are still investigating the cause of the fire which destroyed one of the buildings at Summer Chase Apartments on Carver Drive Friday.
SFD Fire Marshal Mark McCurdy said investigators are still narrowing down possible causes.
“There is no formal cause yet. There are still a few agencies involved in looking at it. We know the fire started on the outside of the building. We know the area on the outside of the building where it started,” McCurdy said. “As to the exact cause, there are multiple things it could have been and until we can definitely narrow down to that one cause ... we can’t say definitely what it is. At this point ... there are still a few things that need to be looked at. Our hope is to have a definite call on (the cause) ... in a couple of weeks at the longest if not this week.”
Director of Internal Operations for Oktibbeha/Starkville Emergency Response Volunteer Services Libby Thompson said volunteers are in touch with almost all the victims and have provided materials they can use during the process of getting back on their feet after the fire.
“We’ve offered (the displaced) a hotel room for three nights as well as a Walmart card and care kits for immediate needs,” Thompson said. “We’ve referred each of (those she has spoken with) to the local Palmer Home and Salvation Army stores so they can get clothing and basic furniture.”
OSERVS also provided fast food cards for each family member as well as stuffed animals for children, Thompson said.
“Not only do we respond as immediately as we find out, but we check with people several times after and refer them to the agency they want to meet with to discuss any additional needs they have,” she said.
Also responding to victims’ needs Friday was the Northeast Mississippi Red Cross, emergency response manager Cheryl Kocurek said.
“We’re still meeting with the clients and talking with them to make sure their immediate needs are being met,” Kocurek said. “We’re working with other local organizations to fulfill those needs.”
One of the displaced who lost all the contents in her apartment to the fire, Leslie Neal, has a husband and two children and is the event coordinator at the Mississippi State University Career Center. Scott Maynard, MSU Career Center director said people interested in making donations to her family can drop them off at the Career Center office in Montgomery Hall.
“Certainly as close-knit a group as we are here, we’re trying to help her at this time as she gets ready to move forward and do the things one has to do when this type tragedy happens,” Maynard said. “OSERVS has been really good. They were on the scene right away. They responded immediately, which was very comforting and very helpful.”
Thompson said along with OSERVS, people to whom she has spoken have asked what they can do to help.
“We had a fundraiser that night, and I was telling someone about what happened and that they had rescued a dog, and he offered to pay the vet bills,” she said. “It was just somebody from town. That shows you what kind of community we have here. It’s nice to live in a small town where people look out for each other.”
McCurdy said as a general precaution, all residents should have functional smoke detectors in their homes and test them monthly. He also suggested people who rent apartments or homes have renter’s insurance.
“The (most important) thing we stress all the time is that people have smoke detectors and make sure they’re reliable. In this case it was a daytime fire; most people were gone but the few people there were awake so they were able to get out in time. But if you reverse this scenario and you put that fire happening at 1 a.m. when everybody’s asleep, if those smoke detectors aren’t working we have a different scenario,” he said. “Make sure they’re tested and working; make sure they’re inside your bedroom and outside your bedroom; make sure to get renter’s insurance, whether you’re in an apartment complex or a single-family home. The one good thing in this particular case is that most of the people in that particular unit had renter’s insurance, which is great because otherwise you’re left out on the street with nothing. I see the heartache of people who go through fires that don’t have insurance. The ones that have it are going to be taken care of.”
Education reporter Colleen McCarthy contributed to this report.