A grease fire burst into flames in a Palmetto North apartment Monday afternoon, causing four male students to relocate and one inhabitant left to pay for the damages.
The fire started in apartment 154 when Donavan Thomas left the kitchen while cooking food.
Lt. Chuck Adkins of the Tallahassee Fire Department said the flames burned through the sheet rock. If the flames had reached the wood, he said the fire would have destroyed the whole apartment building.
Lorraine McBride, a 20-year-old Palmetto North resident assistant and junior journalism student from Dallas, Texas, received a call about the fire and was one of the first people on the scene.
“Someone called the office (saying) they saw smoke coming from the building,” she said.
McBride said when she and Palmetto North clerk Kim Simon arrived on the scene, there was excessive smoke. As they approached the apartment building Thomas came down the stairs choking.
“I went upstairs. I was going to cook a burger,” Thomas, an 18-year-old freshman from Washington D.C., said.
He left the kitchen and when he came back he said he heard crackling.
“I tried to use the fire extinguisher, but it was already used,” Thomas said.
The flames were getting high and the smoke thickened. He said Simon entered the apartment with another extinguisher.
Simon tried to put the fire out, but had trouble finding a fire extinguisher that worked. Palmetto North male residents rushed to find fire extinguishers for Simon. After trying four different extinguishers Simon was able to fight the fire.
Brandon Moore, a 20-year-old junior business administration student from Washington D.C., lives under apartment 154.
“I came outside when he (Thomas) came down here,” Moore said.
Moore brought his fire extinguisher to help douse the fire.
“That was like the second one,” Moore said referring to the extinguisher. He said they used no more than five extinguishers, including one from another apartment nearby.
Three fire trucks arrived on the scene at 4:06 p.m. and announced that the fire was contained.
“Whoever used the fire extinguisher did a fine job,” said Brooks Hall, a firefighter who was also on the scene. Hall said the fire was confined to the kitchen area.
The ashes from the grease’s flames remained along the edge of the walls after the fire. The fire melted the stove like wax and black soot and ashes covered the appliances and furniture in the dining room.
The flames also devoured the cabinets and created a hole in the kitchen ceiling. The bedrooms and living rooms were untouched, but the stench of burnt plastic remained in the apartment.
The University separated and placed the males in different apartments in Palmetto North because the apartment is uninhabitable.
Oscar Crumity, the interim director of housing, arrived on the scene after the fire department left. He said the student responsible will have to pay the University for the damages.
The University will not reimburse the students for their personal belongings.
“If a tenant causes damage to another occupant’s personal items, then that person is held liable,” Crumity said. “This is a University housing rule.”
Moore believes that this rule is too harsh for a mistake.
“That’s messed up that the man has to pay for all the damages,” Moore said.
If Thomas does not have renters insurance, the roommates can take him to small claims court to receive compensation.
Renters insurance is beneficial in incidents such as this it prevents students from having to pay for everything out of pocket.
Arnold Waters, owner of the Allstate agency on North Monroe Street, said two types of renters insurance exist.
The first type covers personal property, but its worth can depreciate with time.
The second option covers all items and will replace them with new ones. If the home is not livable an additional living expenses plan will cover the price of the new living arrangements.
It is unknown whether the other two roommates will file, but Sidney Wright, a 19-year-old sophomore broadcast journalism student from Tampa, said he will not file because none of the property in his room was damaged.
Wright said: “Honestly having to move is not that big of a deal or hassle. The people in Palmetto North were very helpful and very professional about getting us moved in quickly and I appreciate that.”
Contact A’sia Horne-Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org