(Orange, Texas)

January 16, 2014

Apartment residents adjust lives after fire

Dawn Burleigh
The Orange Leader

PINEHURST — Everything changed for residents of Sussex Manor Apartments on Christmas Eve.

The differences were not due to festivities and celebrations but a fire that left four units totaled.

Donna Broussard, 57, lost all her belongings that day including the gifts under the Christmas tree.

Broussard decided to cook some pork steaks and baked beans for herself and her 6-year old grandson who was staying with her that day.

“I cooked the baked beans on the stove and then put them in the oven. I turned on the television for my grandson, then stepped outside, lit a cigarette and sat down,” Broussard said. “My grandson then opened the door and said it was getting a little smoky inside.”

Broussard said she has always stepped outside to smoke.

“I cannot stand the smell in my house or my car,” Broussard said. “There was no indication that there was a problem before I stepped outside.”

Broussard said she and her son, who lives in a different building at the same complex, both called the fire department.

According to reports from the Pinehurst Fire Department, Broussard attempted to extinguish the fire but was already out of control.

Broussard was in shock the first days after the fire as she realized furniture she bought just three months prior was gone as well as her pump machine she has to use two times a day due to Lyphedema.

“It is not easily replaceable, costing $2,500,” Broussard said. “I am still waiting to hear from my doctor to find out how to replace it.”

Lyphedema occurs when fluid builds up in soft body tissues and causes swelling usually affecting the arms or legs of a person.

“The smoke alarm never went off until the front window blew out,” Broussard said.

One resident, Jimmy Dickerson, was at work when the fire broke out.

“A person on my crew called and said ‘Dude, your apartment is on fire.” Dickerson said.

Dickerson is now in a much smaller apartment and adjusting to other changes such as outside noise.

“When I rented the apartment, I was up front because it was quieter since I work nights,” Dickerson said. “The back is much noisier.”

Dickerson said the maintenance personal at the complex was very helpful during the event.

“It made for a long day,” Dickerson said. “I was up all night working and moving.”

The power to the building was turned off during the fire and could not be turned back on until an electrician could isolate the power to the single building.

“It was around 8:15 p.m. when they could turn the power back on,” Dickerson said. “So I was moving some things in the dark.”

Dickinson had to leave furniture behind due to the lack of space in the new apartment as well as removing the smell of smoke from the items he could take with him.

“The Sussex Manor fire could have been a catastrophe,” Pinehurst City Secretary Joe Parkhurst said during the Tuesday morning council meeting. “I was on the scene that day and they did everything right. I want to publicly commend the Fire Department for a job well done.”

Fire Chief Justin Partain, according to Parkhurst, called for help from other fore departments based on the description of the call while he was on his way to the fire.

Pinehurst Code Enforcement Officer Harry Vine said he has spoken with the owner who is working towards reopening the units.

“The whole building is off-line to power right now,” Vine said. “The wiring is aluminum and needs to be replaced prior to reopening the building.”