Families homeless after apartment house fire

SALEM – More than a dozen people are homeless, for now, after a fire Monday night at an apartment complex off Craig Avenue.

The fire on Rutledge Drive was reported shortly after 7:30 p.m. When Salem firefighters arrived three minutes later, they evacuated the building and called for assistance from a Roanoke City tower truck.

Roanoke Fire Truck 13, at right, and Salem Tower 1 behind it direct sprays of water on the roof of an apartment building that burned March 22. Photo by Meg Hibbert
Roanoke Fire Truck 13, at right, and Salem Tower 1 behind it direct sprays of water on the roof of an apartment building that burned March 22. Photo by Meg Hibbert

Salem Tower 1 and Roanoke Fire & EMS Ladder 13 directed high-powered sprays of water for almost an hour on the roof of the three-story apartment complex. The complex formerly known as Craig Manor is now called The Crest at Longwood.

Several dozen bystanders gathered near the Craig Avenue Superette to watch firefighters battle flames licking out from under the roof. Many of the apartment complex residents are hispanic.

Salem Fire & EMS Capt. John Prillaman said 36 firefighters from Salem and Roanoke and Salem Rescue Squad volunteers turned out for the call. Roanoke County firefighters stood by at their stations, ready to provide coverage for other calls while Salem firefighters were at the scene.

The Salem Fire Marshal’s Office began investigating the fire on Tuesday morning. The third floor had extensive fire damage and the other floors had smoke and water damage.

Early fire calls on the emergency services radio frequencies said the fire appeared to have started as a kitchen fire in Apartment 9 of the building at 131 Rutledge Drive.

The American Red Cross arranged for temporary lodging for the displaced apartment residents. According to the Salem Fire & Emergency Medical Services Department, three pet dogs died in the fire but no people were injured.

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