By Jamie Leary
THORNTON, Colo. (CBS4) – Rose Vilapando was celebrating her 26th birthday with family when her apartment near 104th Avenue and Pecos Street in Thornton went up in flames. She had stepped out for a moment when received a call.
“Fifteen minutes later they called and said the apartment was gone.”
It took no time at all for the flames to spread throughout the apartment complex. While it caused significant damage, many living there say the fast response of fire department prevented it from spreading to the entire building.
“It started off in that bush,” said Bobby Newell, 18, as he pointed to the charred remains of his neighbors unit.
Newell is Rose’s brother. He lives with her as well as their brother, Antonio.
Newell claims he saw the bush catch fire after neighborhood kids were playing with fireworks. Newell didn’t think twice, he knew he had to alert his neighbors.
“After two fire extinguishers, it made its way to the second balcony,” he said.
The brothers both continued to break glass and grab fire extinguishers. They refused to give up; pounding on doors, screaming to let tenants know they needed to evacuated.
Eventually, both siblings lost consciousness. Newell was told by paramedics he flatlined multiple times.
“I stopped breathing so they had to rip my clothes off and resuscitate me,” Newell said.
The 18 year old was dressed in hospital garb with his hospital wristband still fresh on his wrist. His brother, Antonio, was still in intensive care Tuesday afternoon.
“His oxygen level is still really low and he has a hard time even sitting up or talking,” Rose said.
Thornton Fire Department says three people, including Newell and his brother, were injured. The cause? Fireworks.
While no one has been charged, Thornton fire says three children were taken in for questioning.
“I know they are kids, but this is our home. People have nothing. We had to leave with just the clothes on our backs. There could be charges because of this,” said Rose.
Rose and her brothers live in one of 15 units which are blocked until further notice. The Red Cross is assisting and said Tuesday it will be another night at least until some can return.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.