DENVER (CBS4) – Despite flames and thick smoke, everyone made it out alive of an apartment fire Wednesday evening in Denver.

The apartment complex fire started just before 6:30 p.m. and firefighters are giving credit to a team of rugby players for helping to warn residents.

The rugby players ran into the burning building to get the residents out. Based on what’s left of they building, it’s a good thing they did.

Video shows the moments after a fire started. Flames can be seen shooting from one side of the building as neighbors look on in disbelief.

“I was driving up and saw the side of the building — the bush on fire,” witness Josh Slater said.

Slater and his rugby teammates took video as firefighters rolled up. They just happened to be playing rugby at the park across the street when the fire started. They were the first to rush in to rescue the residents.

“A lot of the guys started breaking the fire (extinguisher cases) inside the apartment complex,” Chris Waazdorp with the Denver Rugby Club said.

“I’d like to throw a shout out to a local rugby team,” Lt. Phil Champagne with the Denver Fire Department said. “We certainly don’t condone people going into burning buildings, that’s our job, but at the end of the day we tip our hats to these guys.”

The fire was so intense smoke surrounded firefighters on the roof. Later, a rainbow over the blaze appeared as almost a premature sign that everyone would make it out alive.

“After the game some of the people were coming up and just saying ‘thank you’ for alerting them and evacuating them,” Waazdorp said.

On Thursday the players were back on the field practicing across the street from the now charred building. Clothes still hang inside a closet visible through a burned apartment window while empty fire extinguishers lay on the ground below. The players are just thankful they were in the right place at the right time.

Firefighters believe the blaze likely started in the bushes. In total 16 units were damaged because of the fire and heavy smoke.


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