CHEEKTOWAGA – A fire in a Linda Drive apartment complex forced several residents from their homes late Wednesday afternoon. At least two people had to jump from their windows to escape heavy smoke according to a U-Crest fire chief.
Isaiah Solomon, a junior at Maryvale High School, saw the fire from his apartment building next door.
“I saw black smoke, so I ran into the building and upstairs and grabbed my friend’s father,” Mr. Solomon said. “It was all black, smokey, couldn’t breath – none of that. It was crazy and really, really, bad.”
He tells Cheektowaga Chronicle that he raised around seven people and told them to get out of the building. Meantime, Byran Chapman, Chief of U-Crest Fire Department said two people jumped from windows as firefighters were arriving.
“They ended up jumping out of the second and third-floor windows before we could get to them. The fire was taking off before we even got the 911 call,” said Mr. Chapman. We got down to the apartment where the fire was located, and it was fully involved.”
The two people were not injured according to Mr. Chapman who says the fire broke out around 5 pm inside a basement apartment at 37 Linda Drive.
The resident told Cheektowaga Chronicle that she was inside her bedroom and something tripped an electrical breaker. When she came out of her bedroom to investigate, she found smoke and a space heater in her living room was on fire. She said she attempted to put the fire out by smothering it with blankets.
The fire was in U-Crest’s fire district, and they were first on the scene.
“When they got here the fire was showing from the [southeast] corner in what they call the living room in these apartments,” said Mr. Chapman. “Fire was already blowing out of the number four side window and already cracked a first-floor window. We knocked that window in, and we hit [the fire] from the outside, and then we made our way in.”
Seven fire departments from Cheektowaga, plus firefighters from Depew and Lancaster assisted U-Crest at the scene.
“It worked out well. We got in, got the hydrants hit, water suppression setup, search and rescue, the ladder truck placement; it was a good team effort by all,” added Mr. Chapman.
He says the resident told him the same story about the space heater, but he is going to wait on a cause from fire investigators with the Cheektowaga Police.
The resident of the fire apartment was going to be assisted by the Red Cross. She suffered from some smoke inhalation but did not go to the hospital.
The fire did not spread past the basement apartment, but other apartments sustained “a lot” of smoke damage. Property managers were assessing if the other teneants could stay in their homes Wednesday night.
“The drywall is really thick – it’s almost like cedar drywall. It’s pretty thick, and it has to burn for a while to burn through,” Mr. Chapman said. “We’re working with the property management team now, and they’re going to rule it out if they can stay. I think they can. They’re going to have to get their doors fixed because we had to force a bunch of them because they said people were trapped.”
A resident inside the fire building told Cheektowaga Chronicle that she was under the impression that space heaters were not allowed. The complex switch owners a few years ago and Mr. Chapman was not informed if space heaters were against the rules.
“Check them, keep an eye on them and don’t run them with extension cords from one end of the room to another, and make sure that if you are in an apartment, they’re allowed,” Mr. Chapman added. “A lot of places don’t allow them because of this. They’re faulty and they can cause a fire and today is a good example.”
Damages were estimated to be $100,000.
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