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DeKalb apartment fire displaces dozens of residents, resource fair for families scheduled for Friday

Neighbor Tommy Phillips shows the damage from the structure fire.
Jenna Dooley
Neighbor Tommy Phillips shows the damage from the structure fire.

Dozens of DeKalb residents are displaced after an apartment fire Wednesday night.

Dozens of residents were displaced Wednesday night after a structure fire in DeKalb.
Jenna Dooley
Dozens of residents were displaced Wednesday night after a structure fire in DeKalb.

A strong smell of smoke still lingers in the air near Kimberly Drive.

According to an update provided by city officials on Thursday morning, 43 people have been displaced and three people were assessed for smoke inhalation.

Damage is estimated around $850,000 and the building has been deemed uninhabitable. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Fire Chief Mike Thomas has sympathy for those displaced by the fire.

“That's devastating for those folks," Thomas said. "And so we feel bad for them. We feel bad for the loss to the community of having a building that—- it's going to take a while for that building to recover.”

Tommy Phillips has lived in the neighborhood for about three years.

On Wednesday night, he says he saw smoke at the building next to his and called 911.

Then he says he and other neighbors started pounding on doors to get people out of the building as it became engulfed in flames.

Phillips says it may be a long road ahead.

"They need food and they need a place to stay," Phillips said. "You lose one place, it is hard to get another out here."

City officials say the Red Cross is handling arrangements for the displaced residents.

Meanwhile, the city of DeKalb is organizing an emergency resource fair for the families displaced by the fire.

The fair is geared toward those affected by the fire and is scheduled for Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the DeKalb Public Library and involves social services agencies from the area.

43 individuals, including many families with small children, were evacuated when the fire broke out at around 6 p.m. Wednesday, according to reports.

Leading the effort to support folks who are displaced is Jennifer Yochem. She is the city’s community services coordinator. She says the property owner provided a one-night hotel stay.

Also, she says folks will be placed on the DeKalb Housing Authority’s wait list.

DeKalb Fire Chief Mike Thomas says the cause of the fire is still under investigation. Thomas says single room occupancy like fraternity houses receive annual fire code inspections but not apartment buildings who by state law must have working smoke detectors in each unit.

  • Maria Gardner Lara and Jenna Dooley contributed to this report.