A child playing with a lighter caused the June 17 fire at Twin Oaks Apartments in Hattiesburg, according to officials with the Hattiesburg Fire Department.
Danny Wade, assistant chief for the department, said the fire, which destroyed 12 units and gutted Building 1, will be ruled as accidental.
The child sustained minor injuries from the fire, including burns on his arms and legs, and was transported to Forrest General Hospital for evaluation and treatment. There were no other injuries reported.
“There won’t be any charges filed in this incident,” he said. “We’ve had some extensive conversations with the family about fire safety, and we have provided them with information on safety ... not playing with matches or lighters.”
Logan Smith, who lives in the affected building, said the fire started around 9:30 a.m., and he was sitting at his computer when he heard the fire alarms.
“It’s not uncommon to hear those alarms, and I thought maybe someone was cooking breakfast ... and they burned it,” he said.
Smith resides with his brother and another roommate on the second floor of the building. He said the alarms sounded for a few minutes, and then he heard a neighbor panicking as black smoke quickly traveled through the building.
The fire apparently started on the first floor of the building, he added.
“I grabbed a fire extinguisher ... and walked as far as I could down the hallway,” said Smith. “The closer I got, I couldn’t breathe, and the heat was getting really intense ... so I focused on making sure everyone was out of the building. We made sure our neighbors knew, and we got everyone out of there.”
Smith said he and his neighbors backed away from the building, and, within a span of five minutes, flames could be seen shooting out of windows.
“We could hear windows cracking, and we saw flames taller than the building itself,” he said. “We sat and watched the building burn.”
The neighbors called the fire Department, and it took firefighters about an hour to control the flames.
“From what I heard, the firefighter said the first fire hydrant they hooked up to was dead, so it wasn’t working,” said Smith. “The fire spread quick. My bedroom is still relatively in one piece, but with water and fire damage. My brother’s room was completely destroyed.”
Smith said the third floor of the building appears to be a total loss, and “three floors of furnished apartments ... collapsed down on each other.”
“I talked to several of the firefighters, and they said the building would most likely be demolished,” he added.
A security team was present at the complex that day to prevent any looting, said Smith, and complex officials were in the process of building a perimeter fence around the building the following morning. He said the complex will evaluate the building to see if any possessions can be saved.
Smith works at Southern Prohibition Brewing Company in downtown Hattiesburg, and he said he was staying in a studio apartment at the business for the time being. His brother is staying with friends, and his roommate is staying with family members. Their neighbors are staying with family members or in local hotels.
“We have renter’s insurance, so we’ll see what happens with that,” said Smith. “I’m not sure what the help will be from Twin Oaks, either.”
Smith said the fire was a terrifying experience, and he was thankful to be safe.
“If I didn’t hear my neighbor pounding on doors, I don’t know what would have happened to us,” he said. “It blows my mind that the fire ... expanded as quickly as it did.”