33 residents displaced by fire at West Knoxville apartment complex

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knoxville Fire Department said 33 residents were displaced from a fire at an apartment complex in West Knoxville.

Fire crews said they received the call about a fire at Bell Walker's Crossing Apartments at around 10:15 a.m. The complex is located near Gallaher View Road across from Walmart and Sam's Club. The call was originally reported as a patio or back porch that was on fire from apartment 331.

The three-story building had 24 apartment units. Knoxville Fire Department said all residents are safe and at least a third of the building was protected.

Knoxville Fire Department Captain D.J. Corcoran said most tenants were at work. He said if the fire had happened at night, it could have been a lot worse.


A dog owner feared the worst after her apartment building caught fire while she was away at work.

"I left and raced over here and they still didn't have any information about my dog," Karen Bennett said. "I was so worried."

A maintenance worker detected the fire on a third floor balcony at around 10 a.m. Wednesday, trying to put out the flames himself with a fire extinguisher before calling 911.

"The fire had gotten into the attic up the wall and into the attic area and they were not aware that there flames above their heads," Capt. D.J. Corcoran, Knoxville Fire Department spokesman, said. "They were the ones who called the fire in and made us aware that there was a fire. We responded and by that time, flames had gotten through the ceiling and breached through the roof."

Crews spent more than two hours putting the out the flames, drawing a defensive line between the undamaged side of the building and where the fire was to keep the flames from spreading.=

"Flames... red and orange flames and smoke so high in the sky," Eileen McCarthy said. "It was really frightening."

Many residents, like Barnett, were not home, but several pets were. Fire crews worked to bring those animals to safety. By the time Barnett arrived home, firefighters reunited her with her dog, Harry.

"I'm relieved that my dog is safe," Barnett said, fighting back tears. "He was in a crate. He couldn't get out. I'm just so relieved he's okay."

The fire left Barnett and 32 others without a home to return to, but she said items can always be replaced. Loved ones, like her pal Harry, cannot.

"I'm not worried about anything material," Barnett said. "My main concern was him and my cat. It's a blessing to know he's okay."

The American Red Cross is helping tenants displaced by the fire. The exact cause of the fire is under investigation.

There was a fire at the same apartment complex on May 13, 2012 and December 4, 2000. Firefighters determined the cause of the 2012 fire was a cigarette that was thrown away.

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