UPDATE: NewsChannel 3 helps family who lost everything in fire; fire ruled accidental

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UPDATE: Officials now know what caused a devastating apartment fire that forced 22 people out of their homes. 

They say combustibles stored too close to a water heater was the cause. They say this was accidental. 

Firefighters arrived on the scene and they saw smoke showing from a two-story, 10 unit apartment building. They say the fire spread quickly to the attic and the roof. 

A second alarm fire was called and this brought 44 firefighters to the scene. 

A resident there alerted everyone by knocking on doors and telling them there was a fire. Everyone was able to get out safely and no one was injured.

The apartment had working smoke alarms. 

Norfolk, Va. (WTKR) - Heavy plumes of smoke billowed out of the Branche family's apartment after flames ripped away everything they owned Monday night.

Ashley and Deangelo Branche lived with their two young boys on the top floor of the apartment complex at 1219 E. Ocean View Ave.

"Everything that I worked so hard for is just gone," Ashley Branche said Monday night. "I don't have anything for my kids anymore. I just moved here one month ago from Utah and I just don't have anything."

The family just moved in a few weeks ago and did not have renter's insurance.

"I have a whole family to take care of,” Deangelo Branche says. “Two kids. Gotta start all over."

Deangelo's mother, Darlene Lamb, saw the smoke a few miles away from her home on East Little Creek Rd.

"I just saw the black smoke in the air,” she said. “I had no idea what it was. I told my husband, I said 'look something's really burning.'"

The Norfolk Fire Department arrived at the complex  around 5:45 Monday evening. No one was hurt, but investigators say the complex is uninhabitable and 22 people were displaced.

However, amidst all that heartache came a bit of comfort; neighbors taking action to lend a hand.

"Everybody’s coming together trying to help,” Lamb says.

Strangers gave whatever they could, even sneakers for those who ran outside without shoes and essentials for the boys.

Tuesday, NewsChannel 3 took things one step further.

NewsChannel 3's Todd Corillo accompanied the Branche family to Target, where NewsChannel 3 picked up the tab for a cart-full of necessities the family lost in the fire.

From bibs and diapers for 10-month-old Jayden, to new sneakers and a Spiderman toothbrush for 3-year-old D.J. and toiletries for the whole family, NewsChannel 3 made sure the family had what they need to start the road to recovery.

"Yesterday my eyes were hurting, my head was hurting. Today my jaw is hurting because I can't just stop cheesing because I'm just at a loss for words, I don't know what to say," Ashley Branche told NewsChannel 3's Todd Corillo.

On Tuesday, the youngest member of the Branche family turned 10-months old.

To celebrate, NewsChannel 3 made sure their were cupcakes for Jayden.

If you want to help the families displaced by Monday's fire, you can contact the Jabez Enterprises rental office at 757-963-0371. 


  • carleen gates

    Hello, there was one particular woman on this news clip this morning who i connected with when she said she just moved here to start over and now she lost everything. I would like to help her.

  • Ashley branche

    Thank you all who would like to help and donate to any of us at our leasing office Jabez enterprises. Thank you all so very much. Blessings just flowing!

  • June McKenzie

    Have several bags of nice clothes for men & woman that wear XL, tees, tops, men’s shorts,
    4 bags of ladies, 2 bags of men’s plus misc

  • F.

    My Daughter & 2 Grandchildren are victims of this horrific fire. My daughter lived on the bottom floor. She was lucky the fire didn’t hit the bottom floor, however there is extensive water & smoke damage. The ceiling has caved in. She needs beds and a couch. We were able to get most all of her belongings out without much damage, just need drying out and cleaned up. Everyone is very blessed that there were no injuries or even worse.
    I do have to say with deep concern, that these apartment buildings don’t appear to be up to code. There are no fire sprinklers, no fire ext. Mounted anywhere. We even noticed black mold in the wall. The 2 days we were there, I never once saw the landlord on site offering any help or concern. I do want to thank Norfolk Fire Dept. For their promt help and all the surrounding neighbors that pitched in and showed so much love and concern. Bringing the victims cold water & pizza and bags to help with the clean up. That is a true neighbor.

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