Fire in Norcross home of Coke thief ruled accidental

NORCROSS - Fire investigators determined a lighted candle left unattended started a fire Friday in an apartment that is the listed address for the woman convicted of conspiring to steal trade secrets from The Coca-Cola Co.

A candle placed too close to curtains ignited the material, and fire spread quickly, destroying 10 units in Hunter's Pointe Apartments, said Lt. Thomas Rutledge, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Fire Department. The department has ruled the fire was accidental, he said.

The occupant of apartment No. 1009, an adult woman, was at home when the fire started and escaped uninjured, Rutledge said. The woman notified other occupants in the building about the blaze, he said.

Rutledge said he could not confirm the name of any occupants displaced by the fire. The listed address for Joya Williams, who faced 10 years in prison after being convicted by a federal jury, is 1009 Club Parkway, the address of the apartment where the fire started. Williams is free on bond pending sentencing.

Four units were heavily damaged by fire, and six suffered significant smoke, heat and water damage, Rutledge said. A fire wall prevented 10 adjacent units from being damaged, but occupants were displaced because utilities for the building were shut off.

The Red Cross assisted 34 adults and nine children who were displaced, Rutledge said.

Firefighters say people should blow out candles when they leave a room, and candles should not be placed too close to combustibles such as curtains, bedding or clothing.

Rutledge said working smoke detectors should be placed on every level of a home, and everyone should develop a home escape plan.