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Residents of Gary apartment that burned describe the situation

Updated: August 27, 2012 11:17AM



GARY — Virginia Smith was prepared to escape the blaze in her apartment building by jumping from her third-floor bedroom window when firefighters hoisted a ladder.

She tossed her cell phone, then climbed out, leaving behind everything she owned.

“I didn’t even have my shoes or nothing. I couldn’t get my purse with my keys,” Smith said Wednesday afternoon, more than 12 hours after her Lakeshore Dunes apartment building was set on fire.

Two neighbors who lived down the hall from Smith, Bernice King, 33, and her daughter, Angel Harris, 14, died in the blaze, which officials have declared arson.

Smith, who described herself as “in her 50s,” moved to Miller from Illinois on July 12.

She said she was in her bedroom when her smoke alarm sounded. She noticed smoke in the living room and first thought it was trouble with her air conditioner, because it happened previously.

“Then I saw the fire under my door,” she said.

She quickly placed wet towels on the threshold to block the smoke and went to a window.

“I’ve never been in a situation like that,” she said.

Once on the ground, Smith and other Lakeshore tenants waited and watched as firefighters searched for a hydrant.

“They asked us where the fire hydrants were. They finally had to run a hose all the way out to Lake Street. It took them so long to get the water started,” Smith said.

Fire Chief Teresa Everett said she is reviewing the department’s response to the scene, but did not expect to have information immediately.



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