The Virginia Beach Fire Department was called to the 700-block of Willow Lake Circle just after 7 a.m., on Dec. 31, 2017, where an apartment building at the Willow Lake Apartment complex was on fire.
The complex is located near the intersection of Holland and South Rosemont roads.
The first units arrived within four minutes of the call and reported heavy smoke and limited visibility.
The crew from Engine 18, which was just clearing another call nearby when the alarm for this fire came in, was among the first on the scene and upon approaching the building heard cries for help coming through the smoke.
They quickly located two women on the balcony of the end unit and were able to remove them safely from the burning building. Two other residents were also rescued by officers from the Virginia Beach Police Department who were in the area when the fire broke out.
Police and fire personnel went door-to-door alerting residents to the fire and making sure everyone was evacuated.
Two Virginia Beach police officers suffered from smoke inhalation and one was transported by VBEMS to a local hospital for treatment. The second officer transported himself to the hospital for treatment. Their injuries are not life-threatening and no one else was hurt.
The fire quickly spread through the attic and roof of the structure. All eight units of the apartment building suffered heavy structural damage. Except for the end unit where the fire is believed to have started, most of the fire damage was limited to the roof and attic space of the building.
An estimated 16 to 19 people have been displaced by the fire and the apartment manager, along with the Red Cross, are assisting those people.
The first alarm for this fire went out at 7:02 a.m., with a second alarm called in at 7:22. In all, VBFD dispatched six engines, three ladders, two heavy rescue units, and Volunteer Support 8 Truck to the scene, as well as, the department’s mobile command apparatus.
VBFD also utilized its drone for the first time for photos and to monitor the fire.
In all, more than 60 firefighters responded to the call, along with units from VBPD and VBEMS.
Although all of the building’s residents escaped uninjured, had it not been for the quick response from nearby Fire and Police units at the time of the call, this fire could very well have resulted in one or more fatalities.
Fire investigators also believe working smoke alarms helped save lives in this incident.
Virginia Beach Fire Investigators believe the fire started in an end unit and was likely caused by careless disposal of smoking materials.
Fire officials remind people to make sure smoking materials are completely extinguished before you dispose of them and to make sure you have working smoke alarms and consider installing a sprinkler system in your home.
Photos by the VBFD Multimedia Services Unit © 2017 - City of Virginia Beach Fire Department. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the expressed prior written permission of the copyright holder.
Photos by VBFD Photographer Ray Smith.