Paul Barry and his poodle were jumpy from the late-night thunderstorm, but Barry didn’t get out of bed until someone banged on his door.
He scrambled outside around 4:30 a.m. Saturday. The courtyard of the Chesapeake Crossing Senior Community Apartments was bathed in an orange glow: Three of its five buildings were on fire.
Three people died in the four-alarm blaze, officials said Saturday. They were found in different parts of the complex, which is near Battlefield Boulevard and Military Highway.
Four residents and two firefighters were hospitalized in stable condition.
Much of the roof and upper walls collapsed. Smoke and steam continued to waft over the complex into the afternoon.
Chesapeake Fire Capt. Lawrence Matthews wasn’t sure how many people were forced out of their homes.
Firefighters arrived at 4:41 a.m. to find flames through the roofs of three buildings in the complex. The massive fire drew crews from Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Suffolk and Moyock, N.C. They fought it for more than two hours.
It ripped through the buildings and spread with frightening speed, according to several residents.
Dozens gathered in the parking lot and on the sidewalks around the complex Saturday morning. Many residents said a lightning strike was to blame, but fire investigators haven’t confirmed a cause.
The complex is on the 1900 block of Robert Hall Boulevard, tucked behind the Kmart on Military Highway. The staff at the Kmart opened early to help shelter some of the people waiting on the sidewalk, offering them air conditioning, water and doughnuts.
Firefighters retrieved what essentials they could from the wreckage, and paramedics made the rounds in the parking lot with sacks full of orange prescription bottles, trying to reunite residents with their medications.
Surrounded by other folks sitting in wheelchairs or breathing with the aid of oxygen tanks, Marian White waited for handicap-accessible transport to a shelter.
The 88-year-old said flames were licking at the doorway of her first-floor apartment by the time she was trying to get out. With the help of a neighbor, she got to her wheelchair and carried her foster daughter’s 8-month-old and 5-year-old outside.
“It was like — well I’m not going to say ‘hell,’ ” White said. “It was awful.”
The kids were scared, she said, but they all got out safely.
Bernice Barnes, a 70-year-old resident, said a neighbor banged on her door around 4:30 a.m.
“When I opened that door, all I could see was orange,” Barnes said.
“We had a hard time getting down the stairs,” said Barnes, who uses a walker. She said the elevator wasn’t functional, but residents helped each other. “I’m just glad that someone was thinking about knocking on peoples’ doors.”
Efforts to reach the operators of Chesapeake Crossing were unsuccessful Saturday.
An emergency shelter was set up at Indian River High School.
Barry, with his poodle , sat in a camping chair in the parking lot Saturday morning.
A firefighter asked Barry his address. When he told her, she said he wouldn’t be able to return to his unit, that there was too much damage.
With the buildings still smoldering behind him, the 70-year-old fell silent, sitting in a camp chair in his pajamas with his dog panting on his lap.
“I’ve never been through anything like this,” Barry said.
He listed the things he’d lost in the fire – a brand new TV, a nice leather couch – and noted the other things he’s lost in recent years: first his job as a truck driver, then his son, then his wife.
All in all, things could have been worse, Barry reasoned. He and his poodle were unharmed.
“It’s like that old country song – ‘This ain’t nothing,’ ” Barry said. Sure, say that to the dead and their families.
CHESAPEAKE, Va. – The Chesapeake Fire Department says three people are dead after a four-alarm fire at a senior living apartment complex, WTKR reported.
Crews were called to the Chesapeake Crossing Apartments in the 1900 block of Robert Hall Boulevard at 4:34 a.m.
When crews arrived, they saw smoke and flames coming from the roof of the three-story senior living apartment complex. Smoke and flames were coming from three out of the five buildings.
Crews helped evacuate the building and started to extinguish the fire. The fire was declared under control at 6:54 a.m.
Officials said four civilians and two firefighters have been taken to the hospital with various injuries.
Three people died in the fire; investigators say they were found in different locations of the complex.
The fire has caused significant damage to all three buildings and crews have accounted for all residents.
There has been no word yet exactly how many residents have been displaced.
The American Red Cross provided snacks and water to displaced residents.
An emergency shelter has been set up at Indian River High School.