DENVER, Colo. (CBS4) – Dozens of people are finding shelter on New Year’s Eve after flames tore through an apartment complex in Denver.
The fire broke out early Saturday morning at the Morningside Condominiums on Poplar Street near Hampden Avenue.
Some residents said that they did not hear the fire alarms.
“I didn’t hear anything,” said Joyce Quigley, a resident who firefighters rescued from her fourth-floor unit. “And when we went in the hallway, the fire alarm should have been screaming. And it wasn’t. (It was) just a buzz.”
“The smoke detector didn’t even go off,” said Judy Harris, another resident who returned to the complex later in the day to gather her belongings. “I was shocked that I didn’t hear anything. I heard nothing. I was not alarmed in any way,” Harris said.
Residents in all 40 units of the building were displaced due to the damage.
Firefighters arrived to the complex around 1 a.m. to see flames shooting through several stories.
Authorities believe that the fire started on the balcony of apartment 203.
Neighbors told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia that a man who lives in the apartment had fallen asleep with a lit cigarette. Investigators had not confirmed an official cause of the fire.
As thick smoke filled the burning building, dozens of residents, many in their older years, needed to be rescued.
“It wasn’t only people, we were (also) rescuing, I would say, over two-dozen pets,” said C.J. Haberkorn, Assistant Chief for the Denver Fire Department.
As the scene’s incident commander, Haberkorn said that firefighters saved pets from balconies and helped people to evacuate down flights of stairs on the outdoor fire escape.
“Trying to get that many people out, coordinate an evacuation while coordinating the fire attack, keeping all that together, and that comes from the training and the resiliency and the muscle memory of our people,” Haberkorn added.
First responders rushed four people to the hospital who suffered smoke inhalation. One resident was in critical condition.
Firefighters said that the fire destroyed three condos. At least seven condos were deemed uninhabitable due to smoke and water damage.
Two cats died in the unit where the fire started. All of the human residents made it out of the complex alive.