Woman smoking in bed caused apartment to go up in flames

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PETERSBURG, Va. - Thick smoke filled the Thursday morning sky over Petersburg as neighbors watched as bright orange fast-moving flames jump through the roof of an apartment at the Winham Hills complex on Roundtop Avenue near Route 301/South Crater Road.

Josh Jones who lives across the street couldn't believe his eyes.

“Flames were everywhere. They were ten feet from the top of the building. It was really burned up,” Jones said.

Bishop S.H. Bey said he knew something was wrong when he noticed one of their neighbors scrambling across the street to their apartment.

“It was amazing to see the fire spread that quickly,” Bey told CBS 6 News reporter Shelby Brown.

Bey said the woman told his wife that her apartment was on fire and that her husband had run to the store, so Bey called 911. The woman told Bey that she was trying to light her stove when the apartment caught fire.

CBS 6 News spoke with Deputy Fire Marshal Jeffrey Fleming, who said investigators are still trying to pinpoint the exact cause.

Fleming also said he never lets a situation like this pass without adding a very important message.

“Everyone, check your smoke detectors because they save lives," Fleming said. "Smoke detectors will give you early warning.”

The woman did have working smoke detectors in her apartment. In fact, the alarm was still sounding when news crews arrived.

Bey said his wife went to the hospital with their neighbor to make sure she was alright. The woman suffered smoke inhalation, but neighbors said she is expected to be OK.

Fleming said the Red Cross has stepped in to help the woman and her husband who were displaced by the fire. The three other apartments in that building suffered some smoke and water damage according to fire officials.

Those three apartments were vacant. The fire marshal on the scene said that while flames did not jump the firewall, they did damage an adjacent apartment.

"According to Assistant Fire Marshal Doug Sanford, the fire will be listed as accidental by way of smoking in bed and falling asleep," Petersburg Fire Marshal Marlow Jones stated in a news release.