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Apartment complex fire displaces 24; witness blames lit cigarette

Kevin Davis (left) explains to his boss how he and his uncle escaped from their second-floor apartment following a fire Tuesday morning. Andrew Kiel/WRHI

24 people from nine different families were evacuated from a Rock Hill apartment complex after fire gutted four units and damaged several others.

Just before 4 a.m. Tuesday, firefighters were called to the Oak Hollow apartments of South York Avenue where several units were fully engulfed in flames.

Kevin Davis of Rock Hill lived in one of those apartments and said he was jolted from his sleep by the sound of a smoke alarm going off in a downstairs unit.

“I kinda thought it was just someone cooking and, OK,  just got the kitchen smokey, but it kept going off and off. And I’m like ‘Man they won’t turn that thing off’,” Davis said.

“The next thing I heard was the window…[the fire] gushed up and that’s when I looked out the window at the foot of my bed and it looked like the sun was sitting out there,” he said.

Davis and his uncle were able to escape down the stairs, while others, including a pregnant woman, had to jump from a second story window into the hands of firefighters and police officers below.

The woman who lives in the apartment where the blaze began was interviewed by Rock Hill police, but she told WSOC-TV that the fire was an accident. Suyatta Johnson said she awoke to feel heat coming from near her bed and had to wake her boyfriend so they could get out of the apartment.

Johnson told Eyewitness News that she and her boyfriend had been drinking and smoking. She said that she thought she put a cigarette in the ashtray but it must have fallen on the floor and started the fire.

“We just got out, by the grace of God we just got out. And I tried to go back in there and see what I could salvage or whatnot but the smoke was too strong for my lungs,” she said.

The Red Cross has since placed the families in a Rock Hill motel.

Investigators have not ruled the cause of the blaze and the incident remains under investigation.

WSOC-TV contributed to this report

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