Captain remembers 2014 Spartanburg fire that claimed 5 lives - FOX Carolina 21

Captain remembers 2014 Spartanburg fire that claimed 5 lives

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Five lives were lost in the fire. (File/FOX Carolina) Five lives were lost in the fire. (File/FOX Carolina)
SPARTANBURG, SC (FOX Carolina) -

It's been nearly one year since a fire ripped through a Spartanburg County apartment complex, killing five people.

Martin and Martina Curcio and their mother Libby, were killed in the blaze at the Southern Pines apartments last December.

Two young brothers, 8-year-old Israel Smith and 6-year-old Nehemiah Smith also lost their lives.

"It's still heavy on everyone's mind up here, we still have newspaper articles. I don't think you ever really get over that as a responding agency," said Cody Pucetas. 

Pucetas is the captain at the Whitney Fire Department and remembers the day vividly. It was on December 20, 2014, this fire claimed the lives of three little boys, a teenage girl and her mother.

"Unfortunately sometimes you're behind the eight ball from the get go," Pucetas said. "When it comes to that building it was very well off as we call it, there was a lot of fire when we pulled up."

He said as firefighters pulled out of the station they could already see the flames. The building at Southern Pines didn't have a sprinkler system and only had smoke detectors. 

"The fire cause on that fire is still ruled undetermined," he said. "It's very hard to determine a specific cause and origin on a fire when you have that much damage." 

The Spartanburg County fire marshal said investigators believe the fire started in the open living space of the apartment where Israel and Nehemiah Smith lived. 

According to the narrative from that night, all five people killed were asleep when flames broke out.

"There was a lot of boots on the ground out there conducting that investigation," said Pucetas.

He said sheriff's deputies went door to door that night alerting tenants of the fire. They saved many people from their apartments, but it's still hard to this day thinking about that night.

"The guys kind of sit there and have to go through that too, the first responders do, and they go back to their families, and I think everyone definitely held their loved ones a little tighter that night," said Pucetas.

He said a tree called 'Martin's Tree' has brought them closure. It was planted outside Chapman Elementary School in honor of 10 year old Martin Curcio who died in that fire.

"They sit there and pass that tree and just kind of give thought, say that little prayer to get them through that next call, and that's something that will be here for many many years," said Pucetas.

Last year there were 96 fatalities in the state from fires and this year there have been 67. 

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