VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The Virginia Beach Fire Department reported one person was hospitalized for smoke inhalation following an apartment complex fire Sunday.
Crews responded on Sunday, Dec. 27 around 4:40 p.m.to the Indian Lakes Apartments in the 1700 block of Yellow Knife Trail. Firefighters put out the fire slightly before 6 p.m., according to the department.
Fire officials said improper disposal of fireplace ashes caused the fire.
One person was hospitalized for smoke inhalation, and officials ruled 16 apartment units uninhabitable.
The Red Cross will assist people displaced by the fire.
In all, 24 apartment units were damaged. Ten suffered severe damage and 14 received smoke and water damage. The cause is under investigation.
Indian Lakes Apartment renter Damarcus Smith said he lost everything. Smith lived on the first floor with his daughter.
Smith was on Christmas vacation when he got a call about his apartment on fire.
"The ceilings just caved in. Everything is gone," said Smith. "I mean I still got myself. I’m alive. I can be grateful for that. I can rebuild and start over, but it's a sad situation."
Virginia Beach Fire Department District Chief Steve Lesinski said the fire appears to be accidental.
"It started on the outside of the building, and we’re leaning towards it was probably improperly discarded ashes," said Lesinski.
Lesinksi explained that the public should use caution when throwing away burned remnants.
"The PSA here: do not put your ashes in a plastic garbage can and put them on your deck or on your porch," he said. "They should go in a metal container and be removed away from any combustibles in your house."
"Just keep me in your prayers," said Smith. "A lot of people lost a lot; pretty much lost everything. If anyone can help out and donate or just pray for us."
This is not the first large fire at the Indian Lakes Apartment community this year. In July, more than 30 people were displaced and 16 units were damaged in another fire that required two alarms.
In that instance, the fire department characterized the cause as "accidental" without explaining how it actually occurred.
We don't yet know how many people have been impacted by this fire.