12/15/13 — Seven families homeless after fire

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Seven families homeless after fire

By John Joyce
Published in News on December 15, 2013 1:50 AM

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Members of the Goldsboro Fire Department's investigation team look for clues to the cause of an apartment fire Saturday.

The Goldsboro Fire Department saved the life of a 5-year-old boy while battling a blaze that claimed seven apartments on East Holly Street in the Fairview Housing Community early Saturday morning.

Investigators are still working to uncover the cause of the fire.

The call came in at 4:32 a.m.

Goldsboro Fire Department Assistant Chief Frank Sasser arrived on the scene -- 1715 E. Holly St. -- moments after Engines 1, 2, 4 and Ladder 1.

He immediately called in Engines 3 and 5.

"The fire was running that roof so fast. Our goal was to cut it off, and we succeeded in that," he said.

GFD's C-shift succeeded in more than that.

"Engineer and acting-Capt. Kevin Massey, and Firefighter Thurman Shackleford pulled a young child out, about 5 years old," Sasser said.

The firemen got the boy safely to the door where they were met by a Goldsboro Police Department officer, who was, as of press time, unidentified.

The female police officer took the child over to EMS to have him checked out, Sasser said.

"He was fine," he said.

The young boy's mother and six other displaced families were brought to the Red Cross building by Gateway Transportation.

"I just saw smoke," Najuah Baker said.

She was awakened by her mother and realized that her apartment was in flames.

"The fire department was telling us we needed to leave," she said.

But her son was on the other side of the bed and she could not get to him before she was forced out of the burning structure.

"My mother was about to lose it outside," she said.

When the boy was brought out safely, all were relieved -- briefly.

Just about everything was lost, including the Christmas gifts she recently purchased for her children and niece.

"It hurts," she said, as tears fell. "Just two days ago (I) bought all this stuff off layaway. As a single parent working so hard ... I struggle to do this all myself and then this happens. It hurts."

Wayne County Red Cross Chief Executive Officer Tammy Forrester and her entire team have been working tirelessly since 4:43 a.m. Saturday to meet the needs of the "fire families."

"We are providing food, clothing and arranging shelter for each of the families, based on their individual needs," Ms. Forrester said.

She said not all of the families had lost everything, but they had each lost something.

Her team went out to assess the damage at the East Holly Street apartments.

"It was worse than we originally thought," she said.

The families will be housed at a local hotel until the Goldsboro Housing Authority can arrange for them to be moved into different apartments -- hopefully within a week, Ms. Forrester said.

As for the damaged apartments, investigators were still working the scene late Saturday afternoon.

The fire spread through the attic from one apartment to another, completely ravaging the roof.

"I put the Ladder 1 crew on the roof to place a cut along the length of the roof to cut the fire off, but by the time they got done cutting it had already spread under them," Sasser said. "I had to pull them off because of the danger of them falling through."