Two roommates were dubbed ‘heroes’ after the recent fire at the Avalon apartment complex for their quick thinking and brave instincts on Oct. 2.
Colby Carpenter and Kyle McCullouch, both students at Mississippi State University, lived in apartment building O before the fire ravished their apartment and 12 others’.
Kyle McCullouch, a senior finance major from Madison, recounted the first moments when he realized their apartment building was engulfed in flames.
“My brother was coming to stay with me, and we had just started going to sleep,” McCullouch said. “I don’t think he was fully asleep yet, but he saw a light flickering out behind the window so he got up and opened the door, he saw a little chair on fire. When he was running back he tried to put it out, he looked up and saw the balcony above us engulfed in flames.”
McCullouch’s roommate, Colby Carpenter a senior agronomy major from Greenwood, Mississippi, said they quickly tried to raise alarm as they ran outside to safety.
“When Kyle realized how out of control it already was, he came and got me up and we just took off and ran outside,” Carpenter said. “We just started running around the building beating on windows and doors because we knew we were some of the first ones out.”
McCullouch said the roommates’ teamwork was a big part in ensuring everyone could make it out of the apartment safely. The roommates’ biggest test came when they were saving a disabled mother from her apartment.
“We beat on one door and a family came out, she said her mom was disabled and still inside so me and my roommate ran in there and she had an electric wheelchair, so we had to pull it up next to her bed, pick her up, put her on the wheelchair and then it wasn’t working so we just had to drag her out as fast as we could before it got too bad,” McCullouch said.
Starkville Fire Department Chief Charles Yarbrough was quick to thank several members of the community, including McCullouch and Carpenter, SPD and a volunteer firefighter who played a big role ensuring people’s safety.
“They saved people’s lives by beating on their doors and getting them out,” Yarbrough said. “Without the help of those people, I think we would have had a large loss of life.”
McCullouch and Carpenter made split-second decisions impacting themselves and their neighbors.
“It was one of those things that we didn’t really think about it,” McCullouch said. “We just did and we really got lucky that God just put us there and got us out in time to help as many people as we could, and to get everyone else out in time just kind of a miracle. We felt like we did what anyone else would have done in that situation.”
Carpenter reflected on the community’s generosity and amiability toward the residents who were impacted by the fire. Carpenter said he was surprised by the kindness people showed them by the overwhelming donations and hospitality.
McCullouch added thoughts regarding the feelings surrounding this experience, and the instinctual reaction which set in.
“The scariest part was when I first realized how big [the fire] was and we were like, it’s out of our control we just have to get out and get as many people out as we can,” McCullouch said. “After we had gotten everybody out we were still asking ‘is everyone out, is everyone out’ just to make sure everyone had gotten out safely, because it spread so quickly.”
Avalon apartments took steps to ensure the residence had a place to stay after the fire occurred, putting Carpenter and McCullouch in another apartment building.
Carpenter and McCullouch repeatedly expressed how grateful they were to get everyone out of the apartments safely.