EVANS, GA (WFXG) - One person is dead and two others are in the hospital after a massive fire at Marshall Square Retirement Community in Evans, according to Columbia County officials.
The fire broke out at at 3:22 a.m., said Chief Jeremy Wallen with Columbia County Fire Rescue. Residents and staff members were evacuated from the building and taken to the auditorium across the street.
Dorothy Carpenter, 91, was found in Apartment 328, Coroner Vernon Collins said. She was pronounced dead at 10:59 a.m.
Two more people, Rhetta Cadle and Jimmie Noe, were taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries, said Columbia County EMA Director Pam Tucker. Cadle is in good condition.
Ondrea Bedell, a resident at Marshall Square, said after she heard the fire alarm, she walked down the hall and was immediately told to evacuate the building.
"We hadn't been outside long at all when we saw the flames start coming up from the center of the front of the building," Bedell said. "And they just started moving so fast, just like you'd struck a match...how fast a match burns."
Officials aren't sure what exactly sparked the fire, but they do know it started somewhere in the attic, and the sprinklers did come on once the fire started.
"The only thing I could smell was like rubber, like an electrical fire," said Bedell."It just went so fast. I mean it just went right on down the roof,"
Bedell said she had been living in Marshall Square for only a month, and in the blink of an eye, her home was destroyed.
"It's just amazing how fast everything happened and how much everybody lost, because we didn't know to pick up a single thing," she said. "I mean...I have nothing."
Carpenter's body is being taken to the GBI Lab in Atlanta for an autopsy this week.
The American Red Cross of Augusta is providing support to the displaced residents. If you are a resident in need or have a family member in need because of the fire, call the Red Cross at 706-724-8481.
If you'd like to help the residents affected by the fire, you can donate to the Red Cross by calling 706-724-8481 or 1-800-RED-CROSS, visiting www.redcross.com/donate or by mailing donations to American Red Cross of Augusta, 1322 Ellis St., Augusta, GA 30901.