Massive fire destroys DeKalb apartments

DeKalb County firefighters were forced to retreat from a large apartment fire that destroyed much of the building but resulted in at least no human injuries.

Firefighters confronted heavy flames and smoke when arriving at the complex off of Briarcliff Road, but in the end, they had to move into containment mode and fight the flames from the outside, Deputy Chief Norman Augustin said.

“We attempted an aggressive interior attack, but we were overcome by flames and we had to back out,” Augustin said. “Unfortunately, it was basically more fire than we had resources, so the fire kind of got a way from us.”

The fire appeared to have ignited by gas meters at the Ashford Druid Hills complex. Some residents reported it appeared firefighters had to tussle with getting adequate water from hydrants, but Augustin said that wasn’t true.

“We didn’t have any hydrant issues,” he said.

About 24 apartments were destroyed or damaged. Firefighters could not totally extinguish the flames because gas continued to flow through a gas line that was covered by debris from the collapsing building, which meant the fire would continue until the gas could be turned off, Augustin said.

It was unknown whether a gas leak started the fire, he said. Until the investigation is complete, he said, the cause is only speculation.

Several residents were concerned about their pets.

“We have no reports of any pets that are missing,” Augustin said. “We were able to rescue one dog.”

Resident Caitlin Strischek had feared she would never see her dog again, but Marley was saved.

Abdou Benkhedda, who has lived in the building for six years, said the important thing was that losses appeared to be limited to material possessions, which can be replaced.

“I don’t care about stuff,” he said.

But, he said, he didn’t know where he would sleep Friday night.

Red Cross volunteers will assist displaced residents, a spokesman said.

—Staff writer Alexis Stevens contributed to this report.