Bad Wires Start Biloxi Apartment Fire - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

07/21/04

Bad Wires Start Biloxi Apartment Fire

According to investigators, an electrical malfunction in the wall sparked Sunday's fire. The fire actually started on the first floor. It climbed into the attic, and then spread through the south side of the Saxony complex. The electrical problem was ruled an accident.

It was very welcome news for Wendell Harper. As firemen walked toward his apartment, Harper asked, "Are you the people I can show where my stuff was?"

Harper asked the rescue team to help him find his wife's jewelry, his gun collection, and other valuables buried under a small mountain of fire debris. Ironically, the firemen who dug through the Saxony mess were the same guys who battled Sunday's apartment fire.

For awhile, Mr. Harper feared a pot in his kitchen may have started that fire.

"I knew I cut it off," said Harper, referring to his stove. "But heck, I'm 82 years old. And you forget things."

After two days of digging and analyzing, fire inspectors realized the stove had no link to the ashes and soot the fire left in its wake.

Mark Dronet is with the Biloxi Fire Department.

"This thing had traveled through an interior wall, got up into the attic area," he explained. "And it had probably been burning in the attic area for quite awhile before it was discovered. This fire was electrical and not a kitchen fire."

Harper reacted with a smile.

"I felt so good," he said. "I felt like everybody was looking at me saying hey, he burnt this place down, it was your fault old folks. I felt so good finding out it wasn't."

With the fire's cause no longer hanging over his head, Harper felt a lot better asking Biloxi firemen to dig for his family treasures.

"Listen, we lived through 1930, which was people starving to death," he said, while standing in the middle of his charred apartment. "I can fight this. I'll make it."

by Brad Kessie

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