Having arrived at their apartment around 8 a.m. Thursday, Kirsten and James Morris should have been asleep in the early afternoon.
Instead, they got into an argument before leaving their second-floor apartment at Sycamore Springs Apartments along U.S. 31 just south of Seymour to go to Walmart Supercenter.
As they walked into the store, Kirsten received a call from a friend who lives next door who said, “Your apartment is on fire.”
“I stood there and I was like, ‘What?’ and I looked at (James) and he goes, ‘What?’ I said, ‘Our apartment is on fire,’ and he goes, ‘Let’s go,’ and we walked out,” she said.
Fortunately, no one in the apartment building was injured. The building has 16 apartment units, and eight on the east side were heavily damaged by smoke and water. Kirsten and James’ apartment appeared to have sustained the most damage.
“I process it as God spared my life. I should be dead right now,” Kirsten said. “The only thing, I think, that kept us alive is that God has other plans for us. … I truly believe God let us have a fight so we weren’t home when (the fire) happened.”
Seymour Fire Department Chief Brad Lucas said Jackson-Washington Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kurt Fenneberg had called the state fire marshal’s office to have someone come down to determine the cause of the fire.
Having one of Seymour’s ladder trucks and deck guns from Hamilton Township Volunteer Fire Department and Redding Township Volunteer Fire Department spraying water on the apartment building made a big difference, Lucas said.
“The big difference is there’s a good water supply inside the complex here,” he said.
Plus, the apartment building had a firewall.
“That’s what stopped it,” he said. “They have been required for several years. Obviously, they work.”
Other entities responding included Crothersville-Vernon Township Volunteer Fire Department, Brownstown Volunteer Fire Department, Jackson County Emergency Medical Services, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, Crothersville Police Department, Jackson County Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross.
Donna Colon, executive director of the southeast Indiana chapter of the American Red Cross, said the size of the family and the damage will determine how the residents can be helped. The Red Cross can provide financial assistance, health services and mental health services.
“Our case managers will work with them for referral services to get them placed again, so we’ll work with local services here,” Colon said.
For those who want to help the people impacted by the fire, Colon said to call her at 317-691-4061 or visit redcross.org/indiana and click on “Donate.”
Kirsten Morris said she and her husband had lived at the apartment complex for a little more than a year, and they suspect they lost everything in the fire.
“I cried for about an hour, but all of the tears are gone,” she said. “At this point, it is what it is. Either I can be upset about it and still have lost everything or I can be happy and plan my next moves. … It sucks that we lost everything, but at least I know we have a place to sleep, we have people who will help us eat, we’re not going to starve and we’re not going to be homeless.”
Their parents live in Seymour and Columbus and were there within 30 minutes after they learned of the fire.
“It’s God. That’s the only way they’re alive. They should have been in that apartment asleep,” Kirsten’s mom, Stephanie Turner, said. “They have praying parents, they have a praying church and it was God that took care of them.”
Kirsten said when their truck broke down a couple of weeks ago, their church, Trinity Pentecostal Chapel in Seymour, came together to raise money to help them. On Thursday, the pastor was there along with their family members.
“We have a good church, a good family. We’re going to be OK,” Kirsten said. “We have a good support system. We’ve got what’s important. I didn’t lose anybody. I lost things that can be replaced.”
Stephanie and her husband, Joe Turner, unfortunately know how it is to experience a house fire because it happened to them more than 20 years ago. They, however, didn’t lose everything. Their flue caught fire.
Lisa Barrett, who lived diagonally from the Morrises, said she had taken the day off from work and was in Greenwood when she received a call about the fire.
“I dropped in on my Alexa and heard the fire alarm, but everything looked OK,” she said. “But then as it progressed, I saw where it had said ‘Internet disconnected’ and I thought, ‘This is not good.’ Then my friend started sending me pictures, and it was getting really bad.”
She had lived at the complex for six years. She’s in her 16th year as a surgery scheduler at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour.
“I called my insurance company, and then everyone is calling me. I made a Facebook post letting people know I’m alive,” Barrett said. “That’s the big thing. I wasn’t home. I have things in there that are irreplaceable, but I’m alive and we’ll just take it a step at a time. That’s all I can do. This is really devastating, but it could be worse. I keep telling myself that.”
One of the positive stories from the fire was when Hamilton Township firefighters Tommy Hoffmeier and Tyler Wetzel emerged from Claudia McAllister’s first-floor apartment with her cat, Teddy Bear.
Fenneberg said the apartment manager told him about the cat, and he shared that with Hercamp. Once the floor stopped burning, firefighters were able to go inside and look for the cat.
Teddy Bear was found under a bed.
“My heart was just full when I saw his little face,” McAllister said. “It was awesome. My poor, pathetic Teddy Bear. I’ve never seen him that skinny because he’s got such poofy hair. He was so wet.”
The 7-year-old cat was one of two McAllister had in her apartment. She said her other cat, Veronicat, may be hard to catch if she’s found.
Despite the damage to her apartment, McAllister considered herself fortunate to be alive and for Teddy Bear to be alive.
McAllister, a U.S. Army veteran, retired corrections officer and current volunteer at Schneck, said she had only lived in her apartment for two months after moving there from Crothersville. She now plans to stay with a friend in Crothersville.
“I’m sure I lost some things, but that’s fine. This is family. This is my little child. We love our animals, my whole family,” she said as she held Teddy Bear. “I was really upset, I was crying, I was very disturbed, but you know? The most important thing is no loss of life. … God is good. He’s just good. There was a lesson here. I just don’t know what it is yet, but he’ll reveal it to me in good time, and I’m going to be OK because I’ve got him.”