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Tenants pick up pieces, faces homelessness after apartment fire

GULFPORT — Shaquille Draughn said he was at work when he got an urgent text.

“Your apartment is on fire,” it read.

This must be some kind of joke, he recalled.

But after he had a video conference with his girlfriend, who had just arrived at his place at South Point Apartments, Draughn realized the situation he was facing was no joke.

He quickly left Popeyes Chicken and drove home.

When he arrived at his apartment, he saw fire shooting out of the attic above the second-floor apartments.

The fire began in the kitchen of apartment 206. It spread next door to 205. As 27 firefighters battled the blaze, a water main broke, leaving residents without water throughout the night and into Friday morning.

The fire displaced Draughn and about 20 other tenants.

His apartment and several others at the complex sustained extensive water and smoke damage.

He said he spent most of the night in his car, parked at the beach, he said.

“I had to try and calm down,” he said. “I didn’t know where to go. I sat there just trying to think about what to do. So I just sat there for awhile,” he said, then went to his grandmother’s house.

He was given $100 from the Red Cross, but that will only go so far.

About the only thing he is thankful for is he was able to get into his apartment and get a framed picture of his little brother.

“That was really the only thing I wanted,” he said.

Tenant James Wheeler said, “I smelled something burning. I looked at the roof and it was in flames.”

Another tenant, who asked not to be identified, was moving personal items out of her apartment, directly below 207, Friday morning.

Water was still dripping off the outside railing. The ceiling drywall in the back bedroom of the apartment was broken out, exposing the charred foundation.

She said she had just put her son to bed when the smoke alarm went off.

She said she remembers a neighbor yelling, “Get out! Get out! The building is on fire.”

Soon after, a billowing yellow smoke started to fill up the back bedroom.

She got out and watched the fire consume the upstairs apartment and beyond. She stayed with a neighbor until heading to her mom’s.

“I was homeless before I moved in here,” she said holding back tears. “I just moved in. Now, I don’t know what to do, where to stay.”

Firefighters controlled the blaze in about 15 minutes, officials said.

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