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Fire displaces 4 families

Officials probe blaze to determine cause

POSTED: June 22, 2011 4:00 a.m.
Michele Hester Dawson Community News/

Four families were displaced early Saturday after a fire at Dawson Forest Apartments near Ga. 400.

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Fire officials continue to investigate an apartment blaze early Saturday that displaced four families and forced several people to escape by jumping from a second floor window.

"This was such a huge loss ... there's still a lot to look into," said Lanier Swafford, chief of Dawson County Emergency Services.

No one was injured in the fire at Dawson Forest Apartments, off Beartooth Parkway near Ga. 400, about 2 a.m. Saturday.

Dkota Donaldson, 13, was at a friend's sleepover that night, having a late snack, when the group of teens heard what they thought was someone on the roof.

"Then we heard an alarm and looked at the ceiling and there was a ton of black smoke coming in the house," Donaldson said.

Acting on what Donaldson called "pure adrenaline," he and his friends rushed to wake the others, who were sleeping inside.

"I skipped scared," Donaldson said. "Right when we opened the front door, there was fire everywhere."

With fire blocking the home's only exit, the group of four teens and an adult woman ran to a back bedroom, kicked out the window screen and took turns jumping from the second story window.

Donaldson said if the teens had gone to bed earlier like they had been told, "We'd all be dead."

The Dawson County Fire Marshall's Office is handling the investigation.

According to Swafford, a resident of the apartment complex had reported smelling smoke earlier that night to the complex superintendent.

"But we weren't notified," Swafford said.

Firefighters from Forsyth and Hall counties also responded to the blaze, which was contained to the four-unit building, said county spokeswoman Cathy Brooks.

It is not clear how many people were inside the four buildings at the time of the fire.

Brooks said both upper units were completely destroyed, while some contents in the lower two units were salvageable.

Brooks said four families were displaced by the blaze.

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