VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The cause of Thursday’s fire at Indian Lakes Apartments in Virginia Beach was accidental, according to fire investigators. They say it was caused by smoking materials that were not properly thrown away.
On that day, Crystal Brock, who lives nearby, made a daring rescue. She helped to save a dog and alerted neighbors before firefighters got to the apartment complex.
Brock said she saw the heavy smoke coming from Indian Lakes Apartments and ran over to help.
“I mean it was thick, black smoke. I had to cover my face with my t-shirt,” she said.
Brock was worried that her young daughter was inside with a friend. Once she found out her daughter was safe, Brock said she and a man began throwing bricks at a neighbor’s window to free the trapped dog.
“I could hear dogs barking,” she said. “So, I asked guy to help, knocking on doors screaming for people to get out. By that time, the flames had started, and the heat was so bad. It was so hot. I don’t know what started that fire, but it was quick, and it was bad. I’ve never seen fire like that. It was scary.”
Twenty people were forced from their homes Thursday afternoon. In all, 16 units caught fire. Four of those apartments are a total loss.
Fire investigators said the blaze was accidental.
For Allison Hodgkins, the devastation is all too familiar.
“As soon as I learned about it, I just started sobbing,” Hodgkins said. “I feel so horrible for the people who are going through it right now, because I know exactly what they’re going through. I cannot believe that it happened again.
Hodgkins and her husband were living at Indian Lakes in 2020 when their apartment was totaled from a fire two days after Christmas.
She said the trauma from that day still haunts her.
“We lost basically everything, including our cat,” said Hodgkins. “This was my and my husband’s first apartment. We were still in our first year of marriage. That cat was our first pet together, so when the apartment came crumbling down, I felt like our life was crumbling down.”
Robert Gay and his girlfriend Madelyn Filio returned to the apartment complex Friday afternoon.
“Those families, they have everything in there,” Gay said. “It’s just sad, sad to see.”
“It does bring back a ton of memories from that day,” Filio said. “I still feel like we haven’t fully healed.”
At the time, the couple says family and neighbors stepped in to help get them on their feet. They now want to return the favor for the 20 people left without a home.
“We still have a bunch of other donations we’ve kept,” Filio said. “A bunch of linens, kitchenware, other houseware that got donated to us, and we’d love to donate to other families affected.”
There was also a fire at the apartment complex in July 2020.
The Red Cross is helping 11 people by giving them a place to stay, food and clothes.