AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Fire investigators looking into a late night apartment fire in Aurora that killed two people and sent 10 to the hospital aren’t ruling out arson.
Two people remain hospitalized. One is in fair condition and the other in good condition.
The fire happened Monday night at The Fitz apartment complex near 17th and Peoria, and some witnesses told authorities they saw a man pouring gas in and outside the apartments. Authorities haven’t confirmed those reports and said there’s no suspect description at this time, but they are investigating those reports.
When fire crews arrived on scene at about 11 p.m. officials say flames were shooting through the roof and coming mainly from a stairwell area.
“It was as intense as it gets,” said Aurora Fire Capt. Allen Robnett. “It was an offensive fire attack by the fire crews at the same time doing numerous fire rescues.”
More than 40 firefighters were involved in the firefight, which included using ladders to help rescue people hanging out of windows. Many people were trapped inside the apartment at one point.
“We had numerous people at the windows, or hanging out of the windows. We did numerous ladder rescues from the side of the windows,” Robnett said.
CBS4’s Andrea Lopez talked to a man who lives nearby and saw the fire. He said he and friend ran to the building and were joined by two other people.
“We saw that the whole floor was engulfed with flames and windows started breaking. And then we saw people hanging out of the window and screaming,” the man said. “So we noticed there was a sunshield up there made out of cloth and we ripped it out of the ground.”
He said he encouraged the people to drop the toddler and caught the boy in his arms. The four then got together with the cloth canopy and encouraged the man to jump. They also found a ladder and were able to reach a woman on the fourth floor. She was able to climb down to safety.
The identity of the two people who died so far hasn’t been released. They both died in the same apartment, which was on the fourth floor.
Investigators have not determined a point of origin, but say there is a lot of damage in the stairways. Robnett said residential fires typically start in the kitchen. A witness told CBS4 investigators found a gas can in a nearby dumpster.
“There is extensive damage to the interior and the common areas and the hallways and stairways,” Robnett said.
There was no sprinkler system in the complex.
James Holmes, the suspect in the Aurora theaters shooting, lived in an apartment across the street from the fire. Investigators so far say there is no evidence linking the fire to Holmes.
The residents of the apartment complex are now displaced. The American Red Cross opened a shelter at Paris Elementary School at 1635 Paris Street. Forty-one people stayed at the shelter overnight.