Fatal Fire Under Investigation

Capt. Mark Stevens with the Fayetteville Fire Department uses a shovel Saturday to remove ash from the lower floor of a four-unit apartment complex on Kantz Lane after an early morning fire killed an elderly man.
Capt. Mark Stevens with the Fayetteville Fire Department uses a shovel Saturday to remove ash from the lower floor of a four-unit apartment complex on Kantz Lane after an early morning fire killed an elderly man.

— The city Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause of a fatal fire on Kantz Drive on Saturday morning.

Battalion Chief Maruo Campos said an elderly man, possibly in his 80s, died inside his apartment Saturday morning.

He was found near an exit door inside his apartment. He reportedly lived alone.

Campos said the man’s name is being withheld pending family notification.

Firefighters were called to 2121 Kantz Lane at 7:17 a.m. after witnesses reported seeing flames.

Campos said the west side of the four-unit apartment building was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.

“There was heavy fire on the back of the structure and fire in the attic,” he said. “Crews at the scene pulled the lines and attacked it from the back.”

Marti Gray, a second-floor resident of the building, said she was asleep in her room when the fire ignited.

“I remember waking up to a beeping noise,” she said. “At first, I tried to ignore it because I thought it was annoying. I started hearing popping and crackling sounds and after that I heard a couple loud crashes. When I opened my eyes, I saw orange.”

Gray said she saw flames shooting through her bedroom window. She said she yelled to alert her son, Jesse Gray, who asleep in his bedroom.

“We were both groggy and drowsy,” she said. “I was yelling, ‘Fire!’ and he was yelling at me to crawl on the floor.”

Marti Gray said she grabbed a pair of pants, shoes, glasses, cigarettes and a library book and crawled toward the door.

Her son grabbed his cell phone, keys and wallet and followed after her.

“I was closing my eyes and trying to peep out to see,” she said. “When we finally made it to the door, we opened it and ran down the stairs.”

Campos said other families in the apartment building also escaped without injury. He said some crawled through windows, while others ran down stairs.

The apartment building is in the Royal Oaks Estates addition in east Fayetteville, according to Washington County property records.

The property owner is listed as Ronald L. Goodwin.

A voice message left for a Ron Goodwin who lives on North Crest Drive wasn’t returned Saturday.

Arthur Ashby, disaster zone manager for American Red Cross in Northwest Arkansas, said the organization provided a family with a room and a motel for three nights, along with food. He said other families who live in the building plan to make other arrangements.

“We told them if they needed any type of clothing that we would provide that to them,” he said. “They said as of right now, they’re OK.”

Gray said she plans to stay with her daughter, while her son will likely stay with his dad.

The Grays were among the few residents still at the scene late Saturday morning.

They sat on curb across from their apartment and rummaged through the charred remains of their wallets, which were salvaged by firefighters.

“I can’t say what I’m feeling right now,” Jesse Gray said. “I’m horrified, but I’m also thankful.”

Jesse Gray said he had planned to watch the University of Arkansas football game against the University of Alabama on Saturday.

“I’ll still watch it if I can find somewhere to go,” he said. “If not, at least I can still check for updates on my phone.”

Marti Gray said she was saddened by the death of her downstairs neighbor, whom she referred to as “Richard.”

She described him as friendly, though she didn’t know him well. She said he had a daughter who lives in Fayetteville.

“He would sit outside a lot during the summer and he always waved,” she said, as she peeled a melted insurance card from a family photo that was in her wallet. “I’m glad he got to live his life. I just hope he didn’t feel anything.”

Campos said the Fire Marshal’s Office hasn’t determined the cause of the fire or where it originated.

The last fatal fire in Fayetteville happened March 7 at the Flying Possum Leather store at 526 W. Dickson St.

Bruce Walker, the owner of the business, died from smoke inhalation.