Couple recounts harrowing escape from apartment fire

Orion "Artemis" Brown and Nicholas Alexandria fled their apartment with their cats during an early morning fire at Chanute. A friend died in the blaze.

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Local News

March 26, 2024 - 1:32 PM

Orion “Artemis” Brown, left, and Nicholas Alexandria escaped from their apartment during a fire early Thursday morning at Cornerstone Apartments in Chanute. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

CHANUTE — A couple that escaped injury from Thursday’s apartment fire says they are recovering from shock and mourning the loss of a friend. 

Orion “Artemis” Brown, age 24, and Nicholas Alexandria, age 20, lived in a second-floor apartment on the south side of Cornerstone Apartments.

Both were playing video games at around 1 a.m. when they heard a fire alarm, but it stopped after a short time. The alarm inside their unit was sensitive to smoke from cooking so they initially dismissed the sound, assuming it was a malfunction. They heard other noises, including a banging sound, but did not think that was unusual. 

The couple moved into Cornerstone more than a year ago. They enjoyed the freedom of having their own place.  

“It was our safe haven,” Brown said. 

They have a cat named Noodle and had taken in a mother cat, Seraphin, and her five kittens. 

When the fire alarm sounded again, Brown opened the door and looked into the hall. They saw flames in the upper level of the east stairwell.

“That’s a whole *ss fire. We need to go,” they yelled.

The two immediately placed their cats into carriers and made their way toward the west stairwell. They headed toward a field but found it was difficult to see through the smoke. Alexandria said a piece of the burning building nearly fell on him as he left.

“I looked around to see if Nick was behind me. He wasn’t. My heart sank. He’s my whole life,” Brown said. A few seconds later, Alexandria caught up. 

The two made their way around the building where they saw a police officer. They saw other residents and waited for the fire department to arrive. They watched a police officer helping someone out of a window.

“By the time we got out, most of the others had already gotten out,” Brown said.

Brown called their friend who lived in the apartment directly above them and had once been a roommate. The call did not connect. Later, they learned their friend did not survive.

The fire was so hot, Alexandria said it felt like he was sunburned. 

“It spread so fast,” Brown said. “In 10 minutes, it had already consumed one side of the building.”

The couple received assistance from the Red Cross and are staying with family. They had already planned to move and are waiting for that process to be finalized.

“We have a lot of support. We’re lucky,” Alexandria said. 

Both said they are coping with various emotions, including anger and sadness. 

“I think the shock is still wearing off,” Brown said. 

Both plan to get a tattoo in memory of their friend.

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