Fire destroys apartment building off U.S. 280

Published 3:27 am Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kristi Wilkerson sobbed on her boyfriend’s shoulder as she watched firefighters continue to battle the fire that destroyed her apartment at Brook Highland Place shortly after midnight Monday night.

“Everything we have is gone,” she said. “Once we realized what was happening we just tried to knock on the doors and get everybody out.”

Cahaba Valley Fire received the call at 12:05 a.m. The department quickly called Hoover Fire to provide backup. No one was injured, but the fire destroyed the entire second and possibly first stories of one building and badly damaged several other units. Fire fighters continued to battle flames around 2:45 a.m.

Wilkerson and her boyfriend Steven Cole had lived in the apartment for two years with roommate James Bevel.

Cole said he and Bevel were watching a movie in the back of the apartment around midnight when they heard a loud noise. He said Bevel walked toward the front of the apartment and then screamed, “The side of the building is on fire.”

Cole said the two grabbed a fire extinguisher and rushed outside.

“I grabbed the extinguisher and thought maybe I could put it out but there was nothing I could do,” Cole said.

Bevel said at that point all they could do was try and make sure everyone was awake and out of the building.

“I came outside and started yelling fire,” he said. “There was smoke everywhere and luckily several people had already come outside their apartments.”

Wilkerson said when she got outside the fire had already reached the ceiling of the apartment. The three lived in apartment 1116 on the backside of the building facing a lake. Around 2:30 a.m., the only things left of the second story of the building were shards of wood and sheets of melted siding.

Resident John Mark Hagan lives on the opposite side of the lake. He said ashes were falling across the lake.

“There wasn’t any kind of explosion that I noticed,” Hagan said. “But it looked like the after affect of a bomb going off when it first started. The entire building was covered in flames.

There were eight apartments in the building. Apartment managers opened up empty apartments for those who needed a place to stay. The American Red Cross also provided care bags with toiletry items for displaced residents.