Fire at Salem Commons leaves 42 people homeless - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Fire at Salem Commons leaves 42 people homeless

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11:19: More than fifteen families watched from outside in the cold as their home burned.

Fire crews from Salem and Roanoke city battled the blaze for hours. The fire quickly spread through the roof destroying the upstairs apartments.

Melinda Coles is one of the many who are now left without a home.

"I'm just wondering where am I going to go,” Coles said. “Just to think you have nothing. I left this morning to go to work and I didn't worry about not having anything."

No one has been allowed back inside to see what’s left of their homes.

Coles says her family is overwhelmed by a feeling they never imagined.

“It’s confusion. It’s worry. Its sadness and heartbroken for my neighbor,” Coles said.

Fire marshals are still working to find out what exactly happened. Despite the misfortune of lost material possessions Salem fire Chief John Prillaman says it could have been worse.

"We've been lucky through all of the snow storms that we hadn't had a fire until now,” Prillaman said. “If this would have been yesterday it would have been a lot worse. Thankfully the driveway here was scraped and we were able to get our units in."

Carrying in food and water the Redcross is working with the apartment manager to find hotel rooms and clothing for the more than forty people who were left homeless while Coles says the help is a much needed sigh of relief for her and her family. She's just thankful that no one was hurt.

"I mean, I don't have anywhere to go for the night, I'm not sure if I have any clothes or whatever else. But that's not important. Knowing that my neighbors are okay and that my family that was home at the time is okay."

Thankfully everything the fire destroyed can be replaced.

11:08:The Salem Fire & EMS Department responded to a structure fire at Salem Commons Apartments this afternoon at approximately 3:36 p.m. All residents who were in the building at the time of the fire were able to escape without injury. The entire apartment building did sustain heavy fire damage throughout the third floor and the whole building sustained water damage.

The first unit arrived within four minutes of receiving the call and found heavy smoke and fire coming through the roof. It took firefighters a little over an hour to contain the blaze. There was some water and smoke damage to an adjacent building, but firefighters were able to contain the fire to one building.

Four firefighters were injured during the fire, and three of them were treated at the scene. One firefighter was transported to the hospital, treated and later released.

Approximately 38 personnel from the Salem Fire & EMS Department (Engine 1, Engine 2, Engine 3, Medic 802 & Medic 803), the Roanoke Fire & EMS Department (Engine 4, Engine 5, Engine 13, Ladder 5 & Medic 5) and the Salem Rescue Squad (Squad 1) responded to the call. Roanoke Fire & EMS Department (Engine 8) and the Roanoke County Fire & Rescue Department (Wagon 9) assisted with handling additional City of Salem emergency calls.

The fire remains under investigation by the Salem Fire Marshal’s Office, and there is no damage estimate at this time. The fire caused damage to 20 apartments and displaced 41 residents. The American Red Cross is assisting the victims with food, lodging and clothing.


Rachel Lucas says no injuries have been reported at this time. The fire is almost out, but crews continue to fight hot spots. The fire appears to have started to the upper apartments. Parts of the roof continue to collapse as crews work on the fire.

4:45: City of Salem says  Lynchburg Turnpike from Peters Creek to Route 419 and points between are CLOSED due to a fire.

4:30: Earlier, flames could be seen coming out of the roof of the building. Rachel Lucas reports that at this point, the fire is mostly out.

Original Post

Salem and Roanoke City Fire Departments are fighting a fire at the Salem Commons apartments off Salem Turnpike. At this time some flames are visible. Rachel Lucas is headed out to gather more details.