Reserve at LaVista Walk apartment fire has residents dealing with destruction, heartache

Forty-eight hours after a massive blaze, sparked by fireworks, tore through the Reserve at LaVista Walk apartments, some residents are just now being allowed back inside to retrieve essentials from their units which have been deemed structurally sound.

The apartment complex, located on the corner of LaVista and Cheshire Bridge roads, caught fire late Friday evening, displacing dozens of residents.

Robert Stokes and Charnelle Gunn were charged with criminal damage to property in the first degree and reckless conduct. Both were booked into the Fulton County Jail.

From left to right: Robert Stokes and Charnelle Gunn (Credit: Fulton County Sheriffs Office)


Police from the Atlanta Police Department say they were shooting off fireworks on the roof of the complex.

Fire officials say the blaze is still under investigation.

"So, we've had no direct contact with the suspects. They were arrested by APD. However, our investigators were on the scene, and they are working collaboratively to come to some resolve in that space," said Atlanta Fire Rescue Chief Rod Smith.

All the residents made it out of the structure safely, but the fire did claim the life of a cat.

Monday, some families got their first, up-close look at the destruction. 

"We brought our daughter home there, from the hospital, so it's a really emotional thing to go back in, and just see all her stuff laying on the ground," one resident said.

The 2000 block, where residents were allowed back in on Monday, was not touched by the flames. That was not the case for the 1000 block, which was a total loss.

Snap Fitness, one of the businesses on the first floor directly impacted by the fire, like many of the residents, will soon need to find a new place.

"It's been stressful, but also what can you do about it," said trainer Benjamin Lai.

Lai is not certain what he will be doing now that his training space is unusable.

"Just making it work short-term, trying to find a long-term place. I've been reaching out, looking at different spots," he said.

Despite residents of the 2000 block being allowed back in, not all residents say they want to stay.

"It's not worth it at all, and we won't be moving back in here once building two opens back up," one resident told FOX 5.

Chief Smith said this fire was unique in the way it spread.

"So, a typical fire will burn upwards and where you will have the activation of the alarms as well as the sprinkler system. However, this one started in the roof. So, this was a complete anomaly. And so, the systems would not detect that until later into the alarm, which is very late if it starts in the roof, because it's typically connected through the roof," the chief said.

The chief said the blaze ended up being a three-alarm response and the current fire equipment shortage was not an issue in fighting the fire.