Four families have been forced out of their homes in Van Buren after a fire ripped through an apartment, destroyed what was inside and damaged neighboring units.
The fire started inside an apartment the Vista Hills Apartment Complex just off of Bella Vista Road around 1 p.m. Thursday (May 2).
Sabra Richmond, who lives next door to the apartment that burned, says she was just inside with her 5-month-old baby when she says she saw smoke drifting in her window.
"It was fairly scary," Richmond said. "I mean it was really fast. It went from just being a little bit of smoke to flames. And I just envisioned my entire apartment going up in to flames."
That’s when Richmond says she grabbed what she could, ran outside and called 911.
“I walked out and I heard the snapping and the popping and then she was walking up and I said ‘Do you know your house is on fire?’” Richmond said. “Then I ran back in and grabbed my baby and my phone and called 911.”
Richmond said her neighbor, Mrs. Davis, had walked over to a relative's house across the street moments before the fire started.
"I was on the phone talking to my wife while I was in my office in Fort Smith," Michael Davis explained. "We have had a family member that's just passed away so that's what we were talking about when she told me all of the sudden that the apartment was on fire and said for me to call 911."
Davis, and several other neighbors watched as the fire burned through their apartment and destroyed most of what was inside.
The Richmond family, along with three other families, will have to find a new place to stay for the next several weeks as their apartments are renovated.
Managers say they are planning to work out how to pay for damages and renovating the apartments over the next few days.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Battalion Chief Scott McKinney says the fire began in the kitchen area.