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MS Coast apartment fire displaces more than 20 families. Insurance might not cover losses

In World
June 11, 2024

Twenty four families have been displaced by a fire that burned at the Providence Pointe apartment complex this weekend, management at the complex confirmed Monday.

Additionally, a recent transfer in the complex’s ownership makes it unclear what victims’ next steps should be in recovering their losses, and if they can expect insurance to do so at all.

A little after 1 a.m. Saturday, 36 firefighters and 12 firetrucks were dispatched to a fire at the apartment complex, Assistant Biloxi Fire Chief Wes Small said. It took about five hours to extinguish the blaze.

Two firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion, he said, but there were otherwise no injuries. According to Small, four units were destroyed, six took heavy damage, and 18 sustained some degree of water damage.

By Monday morning, a fence had been erected around the burned building and plywood panels had been mounted to some windows.

Fire damage totally destroyed four units and heavily damaged six during the fire at Providence Point this weekend, the Biloxi fire department said.

Fire damage totally destroyed four units and heavily damaged six during the fire at Providence Point this weekend, the Biloxi fire department said.

Seeking answers

Residents — many of them elderly and others who are retired active or retired military personnel — were lined up at the complex’s manager’s office on Monday morning seeking answers.

Of those in line was Spanky Purcell, a resident who was asleep when the fire started. He said the flames were as tall as the building, over three stories in height.

Purcell, a self described “big brother of the neighborhood,” said he’d been trying to coordinate with other residents so that everyone can find shelter.

“There are moms here with five kids with nowhere to go,” he said. “Where are they going to sleep tonight?”

He said he’s going to be all right, but that not everyone has family or friends they can count on for support. He said he was in line because he wasn’t allowed to go back into his unit to withdraw his belongings.

The fire’s victims, many still without stable housing, had run through aid money provided by the American Red Cross, Purcell said. They voiced general frustration with how limited their options were and the lack of support they felt they were receiving from the apartment complex.

Charles Avery, another resident in line, said he was disappointed that the complex’s management wouldn’t return his latest rent payment. He said it didn’t make sense he was out over $1,000 in rent for a place he couldn’t stay at.

A fire burns through and atop the roof of a building at Providence Pointe apartment complex.

A fire burns through and atop the roof of a building at Providence Pointe apartment complex.

Insurance questions

April Spratly, the complex’s regional manager, said the apartments’ ownership had changed as of Friday — and that the new management hadn’t owned the complex for a full 24 hours before the fire. She said the complex’s new owners hadn’t even visited their new property yet.

Wendy Samples, a disaster program manager with the Red Cross, said that the new management hadn’t collected all their residents’ contact information before the fire started, which posed a challenge in notifying them of the fire and its damage. She said it’s possible that some residents still aren’t aware their apartment burned.

Due to the ownership transfer, Samples said, it’s unclear if the displaced families can expect money from renters insurance they’d been paying up until then.

The consequences of the issues with insurance could be life-altering, she said.

Samples, a former firefighter, believes the burned building, though still standing, will be a total loss. Samples, who was at the scene Saturday, said based on conversations with the fire department and apartment complex, that Providence Point doesn’t currently have enough vacant units to house the displaced families.

Ash and debris pile outside of the burned apartment building at Providence Pointe’s complex.

Ash and debris pile outside of the burned apartment building at Providence Pointe’s complex.

Samples said $15,000 has been divided and given to the families affected by the fire, based on their needs. That money is intended to be spent however it’s needed, she said, ideally to pick victims off their feet for the first 72 hours.

“Some came out without wearing shoes,” she said.

Beyond that, the nonprofit will try and provide other forms of support for the next month. The Red Cross does not provide shelter.

The Red Cross has also provided cases of blankets, supplies, snacks, medical supplies and toys for children.

“The job of the Red Cross is to help our neighbors,” said John McCarty, the nonprofit’s executive director of Southeast Mississippi. “But we’re just one organization. We’re one of many organizations here to serve the community.”

The Red Cross’ home fire and disaster assistance line is 1-800-733-2767. Its Southeast Mississippi chapter can be reached at 228-896-4511.

Spratly said Providence Pointe would be taking donations and was trying to help its residents find accommodations.

Smalls said the fire department was still investigating the fire’s cause and scope. He said this was a large scale incident and warranted a large investigation, and that it will take time to process.

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