apartment fire (copy)

Sally Cooper, left, helps her mom, Rosa Sire, to Cooper’s car Friday, May 24, 2019, after a four-alarm fire broke out in the 11-story senior apartments Sire lives. The fire started on the 10th floor and Sire lives on the third floor of the Regency Tower Apartments at 921 Green Star Drive. “It was just black,” Sire said about trying to get down the staircase in the smoke. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

More than 100 residents of the fire-damaged Regency Tower Apartments haven’t been allowed to return home nearly a week after a blaze broke out on the upper floors of the 11-story building in southwest Colorado Springs.

The fire broke out in a 10th-floor apartment shortly before noon Friday and was brought under control in just over an hour. Residents were evacuated or brought down by ladder and no one was seriously injured.

But the 123 tenants of the senior living building at 921 Green Star Drive were forced to move in with friends and relatives or stay in hotels until the fire investigation and safety inspections were completed and utilities restored, Fire Department officials said.

After completing its investigation, the Fire Department turned the building over to Regency Towers’ management company at noon Saturday, said Fire Capt. Brian Vaughan. He declined to say what caused the fire, saying that would be released Thursday.

Tenants on the lower nine floors could be allowed back home after electrical system, smoke alarms and elevators are checked, Vaughan said. Officials had thought that might happen Wednesday, but the inspections had not been completed.

The Pikes Peak Regional Building Department will determine when it’s safe for residents to return to the 10th and 11th floors, where most of the damage is.

“This is all based on safety, said Vaughan. “Safety has got to be of the utmost priority for them (property management). What we don’t want is to have an electrical system failure because of that water damage. Next thing you know, we have a different fire starting.”

Vaughan wasn’t sure how long it would be until tenants could go home, but that the length of time would depend on when management could get contractors in to get the work done.

“What we want is to make sure we get in there with a clean slate … ” Vaughan said. “We want to make sure these folks can put their heads down at night and feel safe.”

The apartments did not have a sprinkler system, which is not required under the city’s code for older high-rises such as the Regency Tower, which was built in 1965.

Silver Key, a local nonprofit that serves seniors, put out a call for donations Friday afternoon: “We are calling on our community to help us get the seniors affected by this fire the resources they need in a timely fashion.”

Donations can be made on Facebook or through the organization’s website at silver key.org/donate.

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Liz is a multimedia journalist with a specific interest in space exploration and environment. She watches way too much Star Trek and is working toward her rescue scuba divers certification. Liz joined the Gazette staff in 2019.

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