Man escapes as fire destroys South Memphis home

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A man is homeless after his house went up in flames Thursday morning.

Investigators say the fire started around 7 a.m. at a home on St. Paul Avenue in South Memphis.

Thick smoke billowed over downtown for hours, captured on WREG's Cotton Exchange Camera as crews nearly two miles away battled the flames.

Neighbors watched in shock as the roof collapsed and the smoke and flames grew.

“I came out the house, all I seen was flames," neighbor Annie Williams said. “I was trying to see was anybody in there, see what they OK. You know, that’s all I could do.”

The homeowner, who didn't want to speak on camera, tells WREG he was sleeping when he heard a loud pop in the attic.

“He heard it and he investigated and saw smoke, and was able to exit unharmed," Memphis Fire Department Public Information Officer Lt. Wayne Cooke said.

But the house, which neighbors say was one of the oldest on the block, appears to have been destroyed.

“With this being an older house, the fire advanced very rapidly through this structure so we were happy that he was able to escape safely," Lt. Cooke said.

Neighbors are relieved no one was hurt, but say they'll miss their neighbor, who will likely now have to move.

“I feel sorry for the man because he don’t have no peoples here and I do all I can to help him. He was a nice neighbor," Williams said. "It’s hard when you’ve gotta start over 'cause I done been in a fire before and I know that.”

Firefighters were able to keep the flames from spreading to nearby homes, but the two houses next door were damaged by the smoke.

“I’m glad he OK," Williams said. "You can’t replace your life, but you can replace everything else.”

Investigators don’t know yet what caused the fire.

In the meantime, Lt. Cooke tells WREG the homeowner is getting help from the Red Cross.

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