CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – As dozens of Centennial residents recover after being forced to jump from their burning apartments early Monday morning, investigators are trying to determine how the fire started.
The fire started at approximately 1 a.m. at the Copper Terrace apartment building on South Dayton Street near Interstate 25.
Eight people in all had to be taken to the hospital, but only one remained there on Monday evening. Maryln Kruc is undergoing surgery for two fractured lower vertebrae, an injury that happened as she was escaping from the flames.
After the fire broke out the community came together to save lives.
When residents noticed that people were trapped they didn’t hesitate to help. Some brought out mattresses, tied blankets and sheets together and generally did anything they could do to get the residents who were in danger to safety.
The Johnson family told CBS4 they lost two cats in the fire and just about all of their belongings, and if it wasn’t for their neighbors they themselves might not have survived.
Flames were billowing from their apartment building and they said they only had one way out. Each member of the family shimmied three stories down a makeshift rope that was thrown together by their quick thinking neighbors.
“It was amazing that we got out and these neighbors — we owe our life to them,” said James Johnson, the father.
Their neighbor Warren Ratcliff had already thought of a plan. He backed his truck up next to the burning building.
“A couple guys threw some mattresses in the back of my truck and we tied some blankets together we just made a little rope to get the family from the top floor,” he said.
“The dad that was up there caught them and tied them off to something and we told him to send the kid down and they all started shimmying down the rope while Warren held it tight,” said Bryan Schoff, another neighbor.
Johnson’s oldest son Christopher was nowhere to be found at the time.
“I got split up from them,” he said. “They went to the balcony and I went to the master bathroom.”
The bathroom’s only window was sealed shut, but Christopher knew it was his only chance of survival.
“I had to wrap my hand in a towel, grab a candle and bust the window open,” he said.
Then he jumped to safety.
“Thankfully somebody brought out a mattress which broke my fall,” he said.
He was bumped and bruised and ran to the front of their building.
From there all he could do was watch and wait.
“When my brother finally came down I grabbed him and I wouldn’t let go,” he said.
James Johnson had feared his son was still inside and he said when he saw him safe on the ground the chaos that surrounded him disappeared.
“I saw Christopher. We were all safe, and here we are alive,” he said.
The family is now staying with friends.
The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s office is leading the investigation into how the fire started.