UPDATED: Irvin Street Apartment Hit Again With Fire, Ruled Arson

Cornelia - The same apartment complex that caught fire back in Aug. caught fire once again early this morning.

Cornelia Fire Chief Billy Joe Jenkins tells WHCM that the fire department was dispatched to the residence around “1:45 a.m. this (Monday) morning.” 

A press release by the Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner's Office states, “The arson occurred at apartments 457 & 459 off of Irvin Street in Cornelia, Georgia. The side of the apartment
complex where the fire began suffered major damages,” said Safety Fire Commissioner John F. King. “The units were vacant and no utilities have been connected to them since a fire at the same location on August 30. It is believed that this morning’s fire started in the basement of apartment 459B.”

“When we arrived, the building was totally engulfed in flames,” Jenkins says. 

Jenkins goes on to say that along with Cornelia Fire, Baldwin Fire Department, Lee Arrendale State Prison Fire Department, and Habersham County Emergency Services Med 12, Engine 12, Med 21, Battalion 1 and Captain 1, were also called out to assist. 

Around 2:28 a.m., Jenkins says authorities were able to knock down the problem area of the building. “It took us a while. We had to do overhauls, and had some hotspots.” 

“There was so much debris inside the building, we had to go back for a second time to make sure we had it knocked down. We continued to keep an eye on it to make sure the fire doesn’t develop back again,” Jenkins says. 

“The upper building had already been considered a total loss,” Jenkins says. 

“Noone currently lived at the location. The neighbor had seen some people there,” says Jenkins.

Jenkins goes on to mention there were reports of possible entrapment, “We were also told by dispatch that it’s possible someone was in the resident. After we carefully went through and search the resident, we did not find anyone inside.”

No one was injured, according to Jenkins.

Jenkins tells WCHM that the local and state fire marshals are still investigating the incident at this time. 

“We did rule it as an arson,” Jenkins says, “because there wasn’t any electricity or power to that location.”

Jenkins goes on to state that there is a $10,000 reward being offered for any information leading to an arrest. 

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Cornelia Fire Marshal Lt. Josh Hazel or the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

The residence is the same unnamed apartment complex on 459 Irvin Street in Cornelia that left 13 homeless after a fire broke out overnight on Aug. 30.
 
Original Story: Residents of a Cornelia Apartment Complex are finding themselves with nowhere to go after a fire wreaked havoc overnight.

Fire Chief for the City of Cornelia, Bill Jenkins, tells WCHM that the call came in around 12:05 this, Friday, Aug. 30, morning, sending emergency personnel to 459 Irvin Street in Cornelia.

The complex is just off Level Grove Road, according to Jenkins.

A mystery man happened to be walking by the complex and was able to alert one of the residents by throwing a rock at their window. The resident was then able to wake others.

A member of the community, Zane Stewart, says that “There was a white male with a red shirt and military-style haircut that potentially saved lives last night by alerting everyone inside of the fire.

Any information on who that person was would be appreciated. If you know this person, please contact me at (706) 499-1008.”

According to Jenkins, the residents weren’t able to make it out the front door and were essentially trapped on the decks of the building.

“By the grace of God everyone was able to get out of the residence,” Jenkins says.

Bystanders were able to aid the police department in helping the residents off the decks and into safety. 

The Cornelia Fire Department, Lee Arrendale State Prison, along with Habersham County Police were able to come together to get the situation under control.

The residents of the building lost all of their possessions and 13 were left homeless. The Red Cross is putting the displaced residents in a local hotel until further notice.

Jenkins tells WCHM that they are still investigating the cause of the fire and that he and the State Fire Marshal “know that there were smokers out on the front porch.” He goes on to say that “we’re not sure if that’s going to be the case of it or if it’s going to be something different.”

They are looking for the ones who assisted the residents in getting off the back deck. “I feel like they need to be recognized,” Jenkins said.

Safety Fire Commissioner John F. King is asking anyone with knowledge about this fire to call the Fire Investigations Unit at 1‐800‐282‐5804. Rewards are offered of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist(s). Calls are taken 24 hours a day and callers can choose to remain anonymous.

The City of Cornelia Police Department and Fire Department are assisting with this investigation.