An amateur photographer for years, it was only second nature for Ricky Black to grab his digital camera early Monday morning as a fire ravaged his family’s apartment.
Black snapped dozens of shots of the blaze that destroyed the Ashton Ridge apartment building at 2520 Callier Springs Road and left 18 families without a home, including his.
“It was strange,” he said of taking pictures of his burning home. “It made me feel kind of morbid about it. But I thought it would be able to give somebody an idea of how it looked.”
Black and his girlfriend Stacey McDaniel managed to flee the apartment with three children before the fire engulfed the home. After McDaniel and the kids were safe, Black ran back to the fiery apartment to grab McDaniel’s pocketbooks, some clothes and a Game Boy.
“The children, not just ours but all the children who lived there, lost all their toys; they lost everything,” he said.
The American Red Cross has put up the family at a local hotel for three days, Black said. After that, he’s not sure where the family will go.
A former Marine and a retired builder, Black said he’ll find a way to manage.
“I was in the Marines for six years, so you kind of learn to roll with the punches,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rome Fire Marshal Vann Baxter said Tuesday he knows where the fire started, but he can’t get inside to find the cause.
“It started in apartment 412, but there’s too much debris to get in there. Two floors have fallen in on that bottom-floor apartment, and we’ll have to wait until some of it is cleaned out,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll know something this week, but it’s hard to say.”
Wind played a role in the severity of the blaze, he said.
“When the fire got into the attic, it spread real quickly because of the wind,” he said. “That’s what really hampered us. ... It spread real fast once it got started.”
In light of the destruction, Baxter said he has been in contact with the Floyd County Commission about updating its sprinkler system requirements.
The building had no sprinklers, and they were not required under building codes, Baxter said.
Although there was little to smile about, Baxter found one ray of sunshine in the rubble — smoke alarms. No injuries were reported.
“While I was up there looking through some of the apartments, there were a lot of smoke alarms still going off,” he said. “These things save a lot of lives, and I’m sure they saved some in Ashton Ridge.”
Staff Writer Matt Tuck contributed to this report.