By Jimmie Ferguson
Killeen Daily Herald
Alert neighbors in Killeen on Friday morning were responsible for getting a family of five out of an intense apartment fire, which hospitalized two people and displaced 14.
Misty Johnson was at Metroplex Hospital with a badly cut right wrist and smoke inhalation, and Octavia Williams, 34, was at Darnall Army Community Hospital on Fort Hood with an injured back, according to the neighbors.
At 11:29 a.m. Friday, the Killeen Fire Department received a call about a fire at the Blue Sky Living Apartments at 306 Gilmer St., said KFD Capt. Leon Adamski, noting that the cause had not yet been determined.
The fire started in Apartment 115, the residence of Terry and Misty Johnson and their three children, ages 1 to 4 years old.
Tanya Perry, 25, who lives in Apartment 116, said she initially noticed the apartment was on fire.
"No one was outside except me," Perry said. "When I walked from my mother's apartment (No. 116), I kept smelling smoke."
Perry said the scent was so strong that when she went into her mother's apartment, she accused her brother, Mike Perry, of burning something in the kitchen.
"I walked back outside and as soon as I turned my head, I could see a window in Apartment 115 was about to burst right then and there," Tanya Perry said. "I started screaming for help, because I knew that that family was still in there."
Tanya Perry said she knew that Misty Johnson was a taxi driver and had been home for a couple of hours and was asleep with her family.
Judith Jackson, 45, who resides in Apartment 113, said she came outside, saw the fire, ran back inside and called 911.
In the meantime, Mike Perry and Leonard Simmons, aka "Ox," began to bang on the door of Apartment 115, when Tanya Perry and Jackson screamed at them to kick the door in.
Mike Perry said when Simmons kicked the door in, he went inside the apartment and was met by Terry Johnson, who began to pass off the children one by one, as they set up a line to get the children outside.
"I took one and my brother took one," Tanya Perry said.
Jackson said as soon as Terry Johnson and the children were out of the apartment, there was the sound of an explosion from inside the apartment.
"The living room was fully engulfed with flames, and his wife couldn't get through it," Tanya Perry said. "So, she went out the back window. And in doing so, she cut her wrist real bad."
Jackson said she then became concerned for Williams, her friend, who just left her apartment and went home in Apartment 215, directly above the Johnsons' apartment, which was now fully engulfed.
Mike Perry said Simmons, who was not available for an interview, was on the move again to the second floor, where he kicked in the door to Williams' apartment.
Williams was trapped in the back of her apartment by flames in her living room. She jumped out of the back window and injured her back, Jackson said.
"Ox is the hero, if anybody is one," Mike Perry said. "He was everywhere trying to bring people to safety."
"Everything happened so fast," his sister said. "But they were in there with flames, and those babies were running past the flames to get out."
The fire destroyed everything in Apartment 115 and displaced a family of two adults and three small children; caused fire and smoke damage in Apartment 215 and displaced a family of four adults; and caused smoke damage in Apartment 116 and displaced a family of four adults and a child.
"It was a bad fire," sighed Beverly Robinson, 47, of Apartment 116.
The local Red Cross assisted the family with hotel rooms and vouchers for food and clothing.
The investigation into the cause of the blaze will continue Monday, said Fire/Arson Investigator Chris Mahlstedt of the Killeen Fire Marshal's Office.
Contact Jimmie Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org