Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Aparment fire sends 3 to hospital, displaces more than 100

By Jakob Rodgers and Andrea Sinclair Published: March 19, 2014

A fire that ignited Wednesday on the third floor of the Devonshire Square apartment complex at 2770 E. Uintah St. sent three people to the hospital and displaced more than 100 others, city officials said.

Firefighters used ladders to rescue residents from widows, and several were treated for smoke inhalation, which was the extent of injuries reported.

Two apartments units were completely damaged by flames, but firefighters said many units had severe smoke damage and that others were uninhabitable because broken-down doors throughout the complex posed a security hazard.

Displaced residents were left looking for a place to stay Wednesday night, because firefighters would not allow anyone to return until Thursday.

The New Testament Christian Church, located directly behind the building, opened its doors to evacuees.

Rev. John MacDonald said dozens of people entered the church half-clothed and without shoes and socks. The pastor cancelled the church's evening events, while volunteers with the Pikes Peak Chapter of the Red Cross worked past 8 p.m. to help people find accommodations for the night.

Many were given vouchers to nearby hotels, Red Cross officials said.

Firefighters worked with the Humane Society to remove pets from the apartments. Firefighters also checked on several pets that were left in the apartments.

At the onset of the fire, the cause of which is still under investigation, some residents said they never heard alarms.

But many reported seeing thick smoke oozing in through their front doors around 9:30 a.m.

"It was dark, black smoke. It was getting difficult to breathe, so I grabbed a washcloth and put it over my mouth and nose," said Edd Smith III.

Smith, who said he lives one apartment away from the unit in which the fire started, heard an alarm only after approaching his door, which he threw open to billowing smoke.

"Once I got close to the door, I heard the alarm, but I had to go all the way to the door to hear it," he said, adding that he had to leave his girlfriend's bird behind and hoped it survived.

The video game shop worker was one of at least three residents firefighters rescued by ladder from windows, according to Lt. John Aker of the Colorado Springs Fire Department. Eyewitnesses said a baby also was removed from the building through a window.

Firefighters rescued at least 15 people who were trapped inside the building, city officials said.

Terri Carlson, who also lives on the third floor, said she did not hear an alarm.

"I burn one batch of popcorn and my fire alarm goes off. This morning, I didn't hear anything," she said.

Carlson, who works for FedEx Office, was enjoying her morning coffee when she noticed smoke entering her apartment. She quickly got dressed, grabbed her "bug-out" bag with essentials and hurried outside.

She forgot her purse and her most valuable possession - her crocheting.

"I bet it will smell bad. Oh, well, I'm OK," she said. "I hope my plants survive."

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