VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - May 20, 2021, replays in 81-year-old Bertha Sutton's mind. It's the day her apartment caught fire and her life flashed before her eyes.
"I had flashbacks," she said. "By the time I got in the living room, I felt heat on my back. And then I'm saying, 'Oh, Lord, I got to get out of here."
Thanks to her quick-acting neighbors, Sutton was able to get out of her apartment before it was too late. When she was a safe distance away from the building, she said, "I just sat there and watched it. I was praying, 'Don't let it all burn up.'"
Despite prayers, firefighters said all 18 units in the apartment building were damaged. Nearly 30 people, including eight families, were displaced.
Sutton, who was 80 years old at the time and on a fixed income, lost nearly everything inside her home, including her cable box and supporting equipment.
Now in a new home, she said she didn't even remember she had a cable box until she received a bill from a debt collector for $655.03.
"I'm on a fixed income. I cannot pay for something that I don't have," she said.
Sutton said she tried to call Cox and explain what happened, but she didn't get anywhere.
"[When I called Cox, I] spoke to the manager of the store, and he told me that whenever you wreck something, you are responsible for it. So now I'm telling him, 'I didn't do this,'" she recalled.
Feeling like she had nowhere else to turn, Sutton reached out to News 3 Problem Solver Erin Miller, who reached out to Cox directly.
Not long after that initial contact, a company representative called Sutton and worked with her to drop the charge. Sutton received an email confirming that her old equipment was returned so she would no longer be overdue in the system. She also received a credit for $64.81.
This message was sent along with the credit:
"Hi Bertha, thanks for reaching out to us. We're sorry for any issues you've had with your service and want to make things right, so we're working on crediting your account. Hang tight, there's nothing else you need to do right now. Thank you for your understanding and, as always, for being a Cox customer."
While Sutton is happy with the outcome, she said it never had to get their far.
"[I feel resolved] thanks to Channel 3 because I've got this problem solved. I got the problem solved. I don't have to worry about that bill."
News 3 asked Cox what options people have if their equipment is damaged or irretrievable because of a fire.
In a statement they said,
"In the unfortunate event of a fire that damages a customer's equipment, they should file our damaged equipment as part of their insurance claim and then resolve any outstanding balance with the reimbursement from the insurance company.
While we have worked directly with the customer in this particular instance, we’re always here to assist our customers and encourage them to reach out to our Care team at 757-224-1111 or through the Cox app at any time."
Click here to be directed to Cox Communication's website.
News 3 also reached out to the Virginia Beach Fire Department to see if a cause of the fire had been determined. They said the investigators report noted, "The area of origin was determined to be the balcony of Unit 418 on the 3rd floor. An exact cause for the fire remains unknown due to the inaccessibility of the balcony, so at this time, the cause is undetermined.”