A discarded cigarette started the fire at Crossgates Apartments Tuesday evening, Starkville Fire Department Chief Rodger Mann announced Thursday.
The cigarette was discarded in a flower bed outside Building 19 and ignited pine straw, Mann said. The fire then spread to Building 19 and the high winds carried hot air and embers across the parking lot to buildings 20 and 21, he said. All three buildings were destroyed in the blaze and four others were damaged by smoke and heat.
“The whole thing is you”ve got to make sure the cigarette is out when you”re done with them,” Mann said. “That”s the problem here. If the individual had taken the time put the cigarette out, this wouldn”t have occurred.”
Mann said investigators don”t know who started the blaze. His theory on the cause of the fire supported statements made by residents and eyewitnesses Tuesday as the blaze burned. Hundreds of residents and onlookers gathered in the Crossgates parking lot to watch firefighters combat the blaze.
Several people said they believed the fire started in the bushes outside Building 19.
Paramedics attended to one woman who sat on the curb and sobbed. Power was shut off to the entire complex.
Crossgates property manager Christy Lee on Wednesday said about 50 people were displaced by the blaze.