Sixteen Conway residents are displaced following a house fire that ignited at an apartment building Friday morning.
Some residents were asleep and awoke to the smell of smoke and muffled screams coming from other units of the two-story building located at 466 Harkrider Street. Despite the initial panic, Fire Chief Mike Winter said Conway firefighters were able to rescue all the residents inside the 10-unit building as well as the families’ pets.
Resident James Taylor was among those who were sleeping when the flames began to fill the building’s attic.
“I smelled something a little funny at first, but people cook stuff around here,” he told the Log Cabin Democrat of initially brushing off the thought that the building could be on fire. “I was still sleeping when I started to hear people yelling, ‘There’s a fire, get out!’”
The situation seemed surreal, he said.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Taylor said. "I thought it was a pan fire. But, no. The building was on fire.”
By the time he made it outside the apartment building at the corner of Harkrider and Fourth streets, Taylor described seeing billows of smoke bustling from the roof.
Taylor moved to Conway from Harrison about a year ago. For now, he’s not sure what he will do next but is thankful his boss at Taylor’s Made Cafe helped him to get a scooter to get back and forth to work. The displaced Conway resident said he remains hopeful, despite losing his home.
“I’ll get it figured out. The good Lord always helps somehow, some way,” Taylor said. “It’s going to be just fine.”
Upon learning of the fire that destroyed the apartment building, Conway Ministry Center Case Manager Sarah Wilson took food bundles and flip flops for those affected by the fire.
As families watched the fire department extinguish the flames, Wilson made sure they had shoes on their feet and food to eat.
“We’re just trying to help. It’s a small [gesture], but we do what we can,” she said Friday morning.
The Conway Fire Department was alerted of the house fire at 9:09 a.m.
Within about 20 minutes, the fire was contained, Battalion Chief Chad Johnson said.
Representatives with the American Red Cross also responded to the scene Friday morning.
The relief organization is providing temporary housing to those displaced by the blaze.
“What we can do is provide immediate assistance which will at least get them through the weekend,” Red Cross representative James “Jim” Howatt told the Log Cabin. “We can give them enough money for a hotel room, food and clothing. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to tide them over.”
The Red Cross is also creating a relief referral list to give each family affected by the apartment fire. The list will include food banks and clothes closets available within the tri-county area as well as organizations able to help with utility and housing assistance. On Tuesday, Howatt said he will call each of the affected families to check and see how they are doing and if they need additional referrals.
The Ministry Center will help affected families find long-term housing opportunities.
“I know the Red Cross will help with hotels for the weekend, but they’re going to need a place to stay,” Wilson said. “I think we can help with that.”
It’s not the first fire that has damaged the two-story structure.
Winter recalled responding to a fire at the residence “a few years back.”
Along with helping residents to safety, local officials helped care for the families’ pets.
“There were several cats and dogs inside,” Johnson told the Log Cabin. “There were also several people home at the time.”
The Conway Animal Welfare Unit helped provide supplies for the families’ animals following the fire.
“Animal Welfare officers received a call about a fire at the white house apartments off Harkrider where they were in need of assistance for the residents’ pets,” Conway Police Department spokesman Chris Harris said. “When the fire broke out, the tenants and their pets were evacuated and not allowed back inside. Everyone got out safely with their pets but no provisions for their pets. Animal Welfare officers were able to gather a few items such as crates, water/food bowls and food for the pets.”
Johnson said he was glad the Red Cross responded to aid the affected families because while the fire was contained to the attic, the home was severely damaged and there was water damage throughout the building as well.
As far as fighting the flames, he said Conway firefighters worked well together to put out the blaze.
“The guys performed awesome in spite of the hot weather,” Johnson said. “Everybody did great.”