As workers boarded up the three-family house behind her, Maxine Williams leaned over the open suitcase stuffed with clothing in the driveway.
Shorts, shirts, socks, pants, dresses – whatever she could quickly pack into the green case after firefighters left hours earlier.
There were a few other things she salvaged: a laptop, an unopened bottle of cranberry juice, a boom box.
Earlier that day, Williams and nine others at 67 North Warren Ave., alerted by smoke detectors and a resident banging on the door, fled the three-family house after a pan of grease on a second-floor apartment stove caught fire, sending smoke and eventually flames through the upper floors.
Williams shrugged off what she lost in the fire as she looked at her two daughters, Yolanda Parchment, 14, and Alliyah Parchment, 8, standing a few feet away.
“I have life,” she said. “That is what is important.”
Firefighters called to the house at 3:55 a.m. Thursday discovered smoke showing from the building when they pulled up, Fire Lt. Edward Williams, no relation to the tenant, said.
Firefighters inside initially thought they had extinguished the blaze but those outside could see it had spread, Williams said.
“The people on the second floor had had a water leak and the ceiling was removed for repairs,” he said. “Rather than the fire stopping at the ceiling, it went into the hidden ceiling section and spread to the third floor.”
Williams, a fire investigator, said the blaze extended to the third floor and eves of the house before it was finally put out.
He said the fire started after a second-floor tenant put a pot of water on the stove for a morning beverage and then went into the shower. However, she put the pot on the wrong burner and the burner she had turned on had a pan of grease on it, he said.
When the woman got out of the shower, she heard the smoke alarms and discovered fire in the kitchen, he said.
Yolanda said she had woken a few minutes earlier to get her cell phone and set the alarm for later when she heard the smoke detector sound.
“A few seconds later, someone was banging on the door,” she said.
She said she pulled the family dog, Suzi, out of its crate in the hallway and fled out the front with her mother, sister and uncle.
Lt. Williams said one firefighter suffered a possible broken finger but there were no other injuries.
He credited the working smoke detectors with preventing additional injuries – and saving lives.
“We could have had serious consequences otherwise,” Williams said.
The Red Cross placed the residents in temporary shelter.
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