Josh Brown, an APSU senior, was at his fiancee’s house watching their dog when he received the call.
Brown’s roommate Bryan Hawkins, APSU alumni and member of Kappa Alpha Order, asked him if he was at their apartment. It was around 1:50 p.m., according to Brown.
He was not, his roommate immediately hung up.
Brown says he sensed distress in his voice and called him right back.
“‘Hey dude, what’s going on?’ I asked. He says, ‘Hey, I just called JJ to make sure he wasn’t in the apartment either,’” Brown said. “Then, he says, ‘Our apartment’s on fire.’”
The apartment is E104 in the Ashford Place Apartments in Clarksville. To Brown’s knowledge, he and his roommates were the only APSU students in the apartment which caught fire. The buildings are separate and spread out, each assigned a letter. Apartment E was the only one which caught fire.
“They call it the family apartment complex. So, everyone that lived there to my knowledge was all families with parents and kids, except for us. I’m pretty sure we were the only Austin Peay students that lived in that apartment,” Brown said.
Including Brown and his two roommates, Hawkins and Jann Jyson (JJ) Abana, APSU senior and member of Phi Gamma Delta, about 50 people were displaced. According to the Clarksville Fire Rescue which put out the blaze, the four apartments on the third floor had fire damage, and the six apartments under it had various levels of water damage.
According to the Clarksville Fire Rescue, the fire was called in at 2:33 p.m. and they arrived on the scene at 2:36 p.m.
“When I pulled up the flame was right over our apartment. So, I kind of knew it was going to be pretty bad from there,” Brown said. “We just stood there watching it go down.”
Brown and his roommates met with the fire marshall at Ashford Place at 11:00 a.m. Brown originally thought they were going to get to go into their apartment and look inside, but the fire marshall said their room was completely destroyed.
“The floor was caving in, the roof was caving in and they deemed it unsafe to even go up there,” Brown said.
The Clarksville Fire Rescue stated that the fire is still under investigation at this time, but there is speculation.
“This is just a rumor and speculation, but the lady that lived in the apartment next to us said that that morning her heat went out. So, she called the apartment office and asked them for a space heater, and she put it on, and when she left for work, she still had it on, because she wanted to warm up her apartment while she was at work,” Brown said. “So, that lady was thinking it could have had something to do with that, but it could have been anything. It could have been that, but it also could have been a faulty wire or someone leaving a stove on. They haven’t concluded what has happened.”
After the fire, Brown had nowhere to live. He and his roommates were talking with the Ashford Place Apartments and were told that people were going to bring clothes down if they needed extra clothes. Brown recalls seeing the Red Cross on the scene while they were still in the midst of putting out the fire.
“We could tell that everything in our apartment was pretty gone at this point, and we were trying to figure out how to relocate. Right now, we are in talks with Ashford Place, and they are in talks with their sister apartments trying to figure out if they can move us in because our lease was up in July,” Brown said.
Brown says even if they do find an apartment, they still face the problem of finding the finances to buy new furniture and other household items.
“I don’t really know what we’re going to do moving forward. Right now, I’m staying with my fiancee, and then I’m also bouncing around at some of my fraternity brothers houses. It’s just kind of hard right now because I don’t’ know exactly where I’m going to stay,” Brown said.
After hearing about the fire, Brown’s mother and brother came to see him. That night, his brother created a GoFundMe for Brown, and there was an immediate response.
“I think the total right now is at about $2,700 and that was mostly Austin Peay community, fraternity brothers, sorority sisters, stuff like that. Besides the GoFundMe I have about $5,500 total raised for me right now. So, that’s a blessing,” Brown said.
Brown also noted how Stephen Dominy, the coordinator for Fraternity & Sorority Affairs, along with a fellow fraternity member, started a GoFundMe for Abana.
“I don’t know exactly aside from the GoFundMe what they’re doing. I know I’ve seen on the internet there are some churches around us that are letting people stay there. They’re gathering clothes, money, funds. I think I heard that Walmart was maybe doing something, but I’m not exactly for sure what Austin Peay as a whole is actually doing for people that were affected by the fire,” Brown said.
Abana noted the support the community provided him.
“They’ve been aiding me and giving me options for living in campus and meal plans. A lot of people message me and come up to me personally if I need something in particular,” Abana said.
Brown is also thankful for the way the community rallied around him in his time of need.
“With donations from people at Austin Peay and my family and friends, I was able to buy new clothes, new shoes, essential stuff that I needed. So, without everyone’s support I know I probably wouldn’t be in as good shape as I am right now. So, I’d just like to thank all of them. It’s really a blessing,” Brown said.