BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – A large overnight apartment fire in Boulder has heavily damaged a group of apartment buildings. Hours later, the fire was still putting up smoke on the 2300 block of Pearl Street, just west of Folsom Street, and people were being asked to avoid the area.

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Flames were shooting out the roof of one of the buildings when firefighters arrived just after 3:30 a.m. By 5:40 a.m. crews had the fire under control and were working to put out hot spots.

“It just travelled like lightning,” said Colleen Bair, who lives in a building next to the complex. “It was so fast and so hot and when I came out and took my video out my front door a minute later, it was like I was sitting in front of a campfire.”

Fire officials say a majority of the 81 units in the complex are damaged. Most of the structures partially collapsed, not allowing firefighters to make their way inside.

Officials say they’ve verified occupancy for all but three units.

Smoke continued to rise from the units on the backside of the building.

(credit: Erika Berkland)

No serious injuries have been reported. One actually jumped a short distance but was caught.

One resident told CBS4 that he heard people yelling outside his window just after the fire started.

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“He was yelling, ‘Call 911. I think it’s in the apartment above me,’ that’s what he said. I opened the window I started seeing the commotion, and once I opened the front door I just saw half of the building of the west side of the building on flames,” said Yuval Sani.

Elif Kuzu and her partner were among the dozens who noticed the fire and then heard police shouting for people to leave the building. Kuzu showed CBS4 the burns on her shirt from flying embers along her escape route.

“It was like a movie,” Kuzu said.

 

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On Tuesday afternoon, Kuzu returned to the complex and said it appeared her unit was not heavily damaged. She praised her neighbors for stepping up to help each other, as well as the firefighters who responded to the scene.

Kuzu showed CBS4 a picture of one firefighter who went back into the burning building to retrieve her three parakeets.

“Without community you’re alone, especially with COVID and people being scared of each other,” she said. “They did a lot of help.”

(credit: Elif Kuzu)

In all, 51 firefighters responded. The American Red Cross is helping residents who are displaced by the fire.

The Mile High Red Cross is working on donations, but can’t accept clothing due to COVID-19. More information can be found at redcross.org/donate, by calling 1-800-435-7669,  or texting REDCROSS to 90999.

Roads will remain closed in the area into Wednesday.

What caused the fire is being investigated, but fire officials say the complex, in fact, had working smoke detectors and a sprinkler system.

Anyone who lives at the apartments or has stayed there in the past is asked to call Detective Sharon Ramos at 303-441-3323.

Conor McCue