As investigators work to determine cause, some Petersburg residents return home after massive fire

PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Days after a raging fire forced dozens of families out of their apartments and townhomes in Petersburg, some residents returned home Thursday.

Tuesday’s fire ignited in an old warehouse before spreading across the street to the High Street Lofts which were also damaged by flames. Several townhouses were declared a total loss. Other units suffered no damage at all.

As flames shot high into the sky early Tuesday morning, residents inside the High Street Lofts woke to the sound of someone pounding on their doors and shouting, ‘get out!’

“I just felt the fire, like the flames and the heat come to my window,” resident Lisanne Padmore recalled. “I didn’t know what was going on. I thought my apartment was hot but I looked outside. I saw everything.”

So, Padmore grabbed what she could and ran from the building. On Thursday, the 23-year-old Virginia State University student returned to her home for the first time since Tuesday’s blaze.

“Everyone has come together in the most beautiful way,” she said.

Leasing agent Rhonda Harris said she’s been working diligently to get people back in their homes, whether it’s to stay or simply grab something that’s important to them.

“We’ve allowed people to go in and get their personal things like medications, you know, animal things, you know, something to get them by until we can get everyone in,” Harris explained.

Harris said the fire destroyed three of the townhomes inside the building, and seven other units sustained significant damage. Three families lost everything.

But even so, Harris insists that over the past few days, she’s witnessed the best of humanity under the worst circumstances.

“It was such a traumatic experience and everyone looked out for everybody as if they were a family member,” Harris said. “I’m truly grateful that everybody is OK.”

Not every resident was able to move back in on Thursday; there are still a number of families staying in hotels because their units are too damaged to return to.

As for what started the fire, investigators are still working to determine a cause.

There is Go Fund Me campaign for residents who did not have renter’s insurance.

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