Demolition begins at Reserve at LaVista Walk apartments destroyed by fire

Months after a massive fire gutted part of the Reserve at LaVista Walk Apartments, demolition has gotten underway.

The fire, which started on the night of Nov. 10, 2023, burned for more than eight hours and required more than 80 firefighters to tackle it, according to officials. Seventeen people were treated for smoke inhalation and minor, non-life-threatening injuries. One cat died.

Residents who live nearby say it's bittersweet to see the demolition because people lost everything, but are happy to see some progress.

"It's a tragedy that all of this even took place, but it's definitely making everybody happy that this progress has started," said Anthony Chenevey.

Chenevey lives next to the burned-out building and is the President of his condo’s homeowner association.

"Up to yesterday, we had literally had no timeline about when this might happen, when they might start to demo the rebuild, any of this," he said. "So this timeline of 60 days just for the demo to be completed for us is the best news we've gotten in a while."

Demolition is only one part of the process. Crews plan to haul off about 800 dumpsters worth of debris. Investigators say all of this is necessary after fireworks ignited the roof of the building, landing two people behind bars.

Since the fire, Lavista Road has been shut down.

"Business totally went down because of the road blockage," said Darryl Newton, The Original Pancake House General Manager.

Newton says business is down about 40%, and he is counting down until Lavista Road reopens.

"If we could just get through this, I think our business will come back," he said. "I think the traffic will be flowing, It's easy in and out and people will be happy."

Once demolition is complete, we are told the company that owns the property plans to refurbish the part of the building that did not burn and rebuild the rest.

The timeline for that is unclear. FOX 5 reached out to the management company, but did not hear back.

Cause of the Reserve at LaVista Walk apartment fire

Less than a day after the fire, police charged Robert Stokes and Charnelle Gunn with criminal damage to property in the first degree and reckless conduct. Both were booked into the Fulton County Jail.

Investigators from the Atlanta Police Department say Stokes and Gunn were shooting off fireworks on the roof of the complex.

Atlanta Fire Rescue Chief Rod Smith called the fire a "complete anomaly" from the usual blazes his department battles.

"A typical fire will burn upwards, where you will have activation of the alarms as well as the sprinkler system. However, this one started in the roof, so it was a complete anomaly, and so, the systems will not detect that until later into the alarm," the chief revealed.

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Fire breaks out at Reserve at LaVista Walk on Nov. 10, 2023.  Drone photos were taken on Nov. 11, 2023. (Credit: Photojournalist Billy Heath)

A group of residents has filed a lawsuit against the apartment complex, claiming the owners knew about the problems with the fire suppression system and other ongoing issues, and ignored them, leading to the tragedy.

Fire officials say the blaze is still under investigation.