Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

TOP STORY >> Suspected meth fire leaves several families homeless

The fire at the Willowbend Apartments may have been caused by a meth lab.

Myris Crutcher inspects the burnt remains of his friends home on Tuesday.

By JONATHAN FELDMAN
Leader staff writer

Donica Knowlin picked through the burned remains of her family’s belongings Tuesday at the Willowbend Apartment complex in Jacksonville after a fire almost completely destroyed her building early Sunday morning.

Six apartments were left gutted and roofless by the blaze, which may have been ignited by a methamphetamine lab explosion.

Knowlin, aware of another fire in the city caused by meth users, is concerned that the city might have a dangerous drug epidemic.

The Jacksonville Fire Department extinguished the blaze. The exact cause of the fire has not been determined.

Damage is estimated to be between $150,000 and $200,000.

No one was seriously injured, but one resident was treated at North Metro Medical Center for smoke inhalation.

Approximately 10 to 14 people have been displaced.

“Everything is just completely gone,” she said. Her and her three children’s possessions were either destroyed by the flames or by the heavy rains in the last couple of days.

Knowlin and her friend, Myris Crutcher, found few things worth saving, only a few articles of clothing and a school medal.

“We came outside at about 4:30 a.m. We heard screaming and crying. I got my kids and got out,” she said.

“My house didn’t go up until we were all out,” Knowlin said.

The family received some help from the Red Cross, which paid for a couple of nights at the Days Inn, where they are still staying, and gave them a little money.

But that won’t go very far toward rebuilding their lives, she said.

Knowlin said the rumor in the complex at 300 Marshall Road is that the fire was ignited when a makeshift meth lab exploded in Apt. 33.

The tenant of Apt. 33 hurriedly woke her neighbor telling her that the building was on fire and fled in her car before police and firefighters arrived, Knowlin said.
Knowlin said that a neighbor had told her about noxious fumes that she believed to be meth coming from Apt. 33.

“If that’s the case, they need to start cracking down because this is dangerous, especially for children,” she said.

Donations may be made to the Knowlin family by sending checks to P.O. Box 6243 Jacksonville, Ark., 72078, or by calling 501-612-7672.