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  • Last modified 90 days ago (Jan. 25, 2018)

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Woman dies from apartment fire injuries

Others unharmed, evacuated to senior center

Staff writer

A Peabody woman is dead from injuries sustained in a fire Thursday at Indian Guide Terrace Apartments.

Resident Susan Markham’s condition was described as “code red,” indicating possible life-threatening injuries, when Peabody ambulance raced her to Via Christi – St. Francis Hospital Regional Burn Center in Wichita. Markham died Sunday at the hospital.

“Sue was a lovely lady and a friend to all,” apartment manager Ruth Lott said. “She just moved back to the area, but was born and raised in Peabody.”

A dispatcher could be heard Thursday telling someone on a phone, “Get everybody out, OK, but be safe while you’re doing so, so nobody gets hurt, OK?” as she paged out Peabody, Hillsboro, and Florence fire departments and Peabody ambulance at 8:05 a.m.

“The reporting party is advising her apartment is on fire,” the dispatcher said. “They’re trying to get people out, there are some still in their apartments.”

Haroldine Hicks was one of the residents evacuated.

“It was unexpected, that’s for sure,” Hicks said. “I couldn’t imagine what was going on, so I opened my door just a crack. That’s when I saw all of the smoke, so I hurried and got my coat and shoes on.”

Peabody police chief Bruce Burke took charge of directing incoming emergency units and facilitating the evacuation.

“We’ve got to find someplace to keep these people warm as we get them out of the building,” Burke radioed. “One ambulance is not going to help the situation.”

Mark Whitney, Peabody Housing Authority vice chairman said apartment maintenance employee Jonathan Richstatter, helped residents evacuate and get to safety.

“Jonathan remained level headed when he heard the alarm and made the call,” Whitney said. “He was a key player in getting everyone out as quickly as they did.”

As first responders rushed to the scene in frigid temperatures, evacuees were taken to Peabody Senior Center.

Less than two hours after the fire had started, volunteers swarmed the center with donations, condolences, cookies, hugs, and warm coffee as the residents were still reeling from the morning’s fire.

Many were waiting on someone to retrieve their glasses, medication, salvageable important documents from the apartments, and for Red Cross representatives to arrive.

Among those at the senior center were residents who were thankful they were OK and to those who saved them.

“They had to put a stretcher up against my window so I could slide down and get out because of all of the smoke,” apartment resident Carol Piland said. “I was so thankful for the people that helped me get out.”

Betty Macy was adamant about going back into her apartment as soon as possible.

“I have a son who is a trucker and on the road a lot, so I won’t be able to stay with him,” she said. “I’d rather just go back to my little hole in the wall.”

Burke said that the fire started in one of the apartments. State fire marshals are cooperating with Peabody Fire Dept., and an investigation is pending.

Indian Guide Terrace Apartments are operated by Peabody Housing Authority.

The apartments, owned by the city of Peabody, are self-sustaining. Age and income based, the complex consists of 25 apartments and includes a community room, small kitchen, laundry facilities, and an above-ground storm shelter.

There are 19 residents who call Indian Guide Terrace home.

Whitney said one apartment in the wood-frame building received structural damage, but the rest of the facility had just smoke damage and could be repaired in a short period of time. Residents can get back into their apartments after the restoration process.

Whitney credited all emergency responders for saving the facility and safely removing residents.

Whitney said efforts would be made to return the apartments to normal operations as quickly as possible.

“This is a big deal for the board to deal with, and we’ll take care of it,” he said. “We have good people on the board.”

Last modified Jan. 25, 2018

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