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Visitor credited with saving 13 from fire
Residents displaced from apartments
Denisse Vega, right, alerted James Berry his apartment was on fire Monday morning. - photo by Photo by Lewis Levine
A fire Monday at a Hinesville apartment complex displaced 13 people, but the toll could have been higher had a visitor to the complex not spotted the telltale smoke and alerted residents.
The blaze, which broke out shortly before 2 a.m. at the Stewart Pines apartments, spread quickly and gutted one second-floor unit, Hinesville Fire Investigator Capt. Chris Moss said. Three other apartments were damaged by smoke and water. The complex is on the 300 block of Beverly Street.
Firefighters credited Denisse Vega, who was visiting the complex, with saving the lives of several people living in the apartments. “Had she not knocked on the doors of the apartments that were on fire, we might have had a tragic situation today,”  Public Information Officer Capt. Kris Johanson said. 
Vega said she planned to go to her own home in Hinesville on Sunday evening after visiting her sister Deliris Vega for the day. “Something inside me told me to spend the night,” Vega said. She decided to go outside just before 2 a.m. and smoke a cigarette on her sister’s balcony.
As she looked across the street, Vega said she saw heavy smoke coming from the rear of the apartment building. She went to investigate and saw a sparking wire and flames spreading through the back of the second-story unit where James Berry, 20, his wife Miranda and their 9-month-old son Luke were asleep. 
“When I saw the fire spreading I ran up to the second floor and started banging on the door,” Vega said. James Berry heard the banging and went to see who was knocking so early in the morning.  “I was a little annoyed when I went to the door, but when I heard the woman yelling the house was on fire, I let her in,” he said. 
Vega, who said she  knew the couple had an infant, told Berry to gather the baby’s things. Miranda Berry carried the baby to safety as her husband and Vega grabbed diapers and clothing.
Once Vega got the Berrys to safety, she said she began to knock on the downstairs apartment where Collis Wright, his wife Sandra and their two children were asleep. Meanwhile, Deliris Vega began banging on doors, waking up Jimill Richardson and his family in another apartment near the fire. Everyone escaped the burning, smoke-filled building without injury. 
The fire quickly spread throughout the apartment, caving in a section of the building’s roof and destroying everything inside.
“I am so thankful for her,” James Berry said of Vega. “If she had not seen the smoke and helped us get out of the apartment, we could have lost our son.”
 Vega, who claims she doesn’t think of herself as a hero, said, “All I see in my heart is the little baby smiling.”
The only salvageable belonging Berry found when he returned later in the afternoon was a frame containing family photos. “This is the only thing that was not damaged,” he said as he loaded the frame into the back of a pickup.
Moss said the fire is under investigation. The cause of the blaze has not yet been determined.
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