PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A couple and their four children are looking for a place to live after a fire at the Columbia Place Condos late Tuesday night.
In all, more than 20 people who live in the four-story building along South Street in Olde Towne Portsmouth were affected by the fire.
Portsmouth Fire Chief Mike Stockton said crews arrived just before 10 p.m. and were able to control the fire in under 30 minutes.
He said the fire started in an apartment on the second floor and then extended to the apartment above. Firefighters had to remove four people from a balcony of the building.
On Wednesday, 10 On Your Side spoke to the family who rented the condo in which the fire started. They have mixed emotions: the family is glad they made it out of the fire safely, but heartbroken they lost so much.
Tony Coleman could recall every detail. “I was in the shower just trying to unwind after a long day of work. The kids were sleep,” he said.
Coleman said his wife was doing laundry. He heard her scream and ran downstairs to see a massive fire.
“My first thought [was], ‘I have to get the kids.’ I woke them up. I was just like panicking, in a sense, because the flames were increasing. When we came downstairs, we were actually facing the fire and the smoke,” Coleman described.
The father, mother and their children (a 4-year-old girl, a 5-year-old boy, a 6-year-old boy, and an 8-year-old girl) lost almost everything.
“I’m still trying to get my thoughts together. I really haven’t been able to process it all. It’s still kind of shocking,” he said.
Even more heartbreaking, this condo was supposed to be a new start. The couple and their four children had only been living there six months. Their path getting there wasn’t easy.
“A year ago, we were homeless,” Coleman said. “It was tough, and it was a struggle just trying to find a place. So, from sleeping in the car to having to stay at family members houses, we were excited when we were able to rent this place and get back on our feet a little bit.”
Now, having to begin again, Coleman is keeping things in perspective. He’s glad the fire didn’t destroy the memories of this photo or his spirits.
“After all of this that took place, I’m just happy that we’re all together,” he said. “At the end of the day, everything can be replaced, but to know that your family is alive and well, you got another day to look forward to, at the end, I think that’s what’s more important.”
The family said fire investigators told them the fire was electrical. Stockton did confirm Dominion Virginia Power responded to the scene Tuesday night.
If you want to make a donation to help the Coleman family, you can donate to an online fund (click here) or contact Sarah Dalton at 757 Creative Space (259 Granby Street, Suite 250; Norfolk, VA 23510). You can also call her at (757) 912-0006. The business is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.