Eight jump to escape fire in Raleigh apartment building
Posted March 24, 2014 3:30 a.m. EDT
Updated March 24, 2014 6:38 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Several people were hurt when they were forced to jump from the third floor of a Raleigh apartment building after a fire broke out late Sunday.
Authorities said they are investigating what sparked the blaze, which began shortly before midnight at 611 Peyton St. and spread to 12 apartments.
Raleigh Fire Battalion Chief David Whitley said eight people jumped. Seventeen people were taken to WakeMed and Duke Raleigh hospitals. The extent of their injuries was not immediately clear.
Twyla Ayashi said she and her boyfriend jumped to safety after waking up to the blaring of a smoke alarm.
"I saw smoke coming under the door. It was black, and it was coming in kind of fast, so the only thing I could think was we're going to have to jump," said Ayashi, who suffered cuts to her feet from broken glass.
"Your mind just goes blank, and if you want to live, you do what you can to live," she said. "I think I’m still in shock. That was a long fall, and it didn’t feel good."
Arturo Hernandez-Colon, 23, said he opened his apartment door and was knocked to the ground by the heat and smoke. So, he tossed his 7- month-old son and 2-year-old daughter to safety before jumping himself.
Another resident told WRAL News that she jumped out of a window with her 3-year-old to flee the flames.
Ayashi said another mother tried to drop her infant to safety from a window, but no one caught the baby.
"They had 10 to 20 people standing at the bottom of the ladder saying, 'We got the baby.' She wouldn’t let him go, and she finally let him go," she said.
Authorities said the 6-month-old will be hospitalized for a day or two as a precaution but is expected to be fine.
Shea Grimes, who lives in an adjacent building, said she tried to catch children and break the falls of adults jumping to escape the fire.
"Everybody was jumping. It was chaos," Ayashi said.
Witnesses and firefighters said one resident who got out of the building safely retrieved a ladder and helped others escaped before he suffered smoke inhalation. He was taken to WakeMed.
Some young children tried to head back into the burning building to help their mother, Ayashi said.
"Someone had to stop them from running back inside," she said.
Firefighters said it took about 20 minutes to extinguish the blaze.
Fifty-one people live in the building, authorities said, and a bus was brought to the scene to help keep them warm.
Whitley said "the sheer number of people and finding out who was in the building" made the response challenging.
The American Red Cross is assisting the displaced families.
Raleigh Fire Department officials said it could be days before they determine the cause of the fire. They said there was a fire in the same building about three years ago.
The property manager said the apartment where the fire started was newly renovated and equipped with a smoke detector. He said he will try to offer tenants another place to live or help with relocation however he can.