Firefighters extinguished a fire Wednesday that ripped through a three-story condominium complex and sent at least two people to a local hospital.
Fire officials declined to comment on the severity of the injuries. A resident of the building said a man in the condo where the fire started had burns on his face and chest.
The flame ignited sometime after 4 p.m. inside the multi-unit building at 4630 Reka Drive. As residents evacuated, dozens of firefighters rushed to the burning building. An engine company from Station 3 in Airport Heights arrived first, said fire Capt. Jeff McDonald, who entered the building with another firefighter.
The flames broke out in a unit on the second floor and quickly burned through to the third floor and the building's roof, McDonald said.
"We could see a column of smoke when we left the fire station," McDonald said. "When we got here, the second-floor unit was fully involved. There was fire blowing out of its deck."
"We had a large volume of fire, a heavy, black column of smoke, and a lot of people evacuating the building," he said.
Small flames and some smoke were still shooting from the top of the building about 30 minutes later. Some firefighters sprayed water on the west side and chopped through the roof with axes while others loaded a woman on a gurney and into an ambulance. The flames in the attic were "bothersome," McDonald said, because smoldering insulation foam allowed the fire to linger.
It was unclear just after the flames were under control how many units the blaze had damaged or how many people were displaced, McDonald said. Fire officials said an investigator was looking over the scene and that they did not know the fire's cause or if it was considered suspicious.
Robert Price, standing in snow outside the building without shoes, said the building had 20 or more units. The fire started in the condo next to his, Price said. At first, he heard yelling in the hallway and thought someone was having a fight. Then, Price said, he saw smoke, knocked on his neighbors' door to make sure they had escaped, and pulled on some pants.
"I went to grab my shoes, and I realized there was so much smoke by then, I said, 'I got to get out of here or I'm going to pass out!' So I went out the door, and all the lights went out," Price said. "I went out the back side of the building, feeling my way along the walls."
At the building's front, Price said he saw a man who lived in the condo unit where the fire started. The man's face and chest were burned, Price said.
Price said he is an avid cyclist who rides year-round, and he was worried about his dozen or so bikes getting destroyed. Standing in the parking lot later, now with shoes on, Price said he hoped to go back inside to check on his things. He was not sure if he would be able to stay in the condo Wednesday night, where he's lived since 1999, or if he would have to take shelter with a friend.
"I really hope they just let me back in," he said.
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.
By CASEY GROVE