Fire damages building all occupants escape

February 10, 1993|By Richard Irwin and David Michael Ettlin

More than a dozen occupants of a three-story house in Forest Park that had been converted into several apartments were without a place to live today after a multi-alarm fire destroyed the upper floors of the building.

Fourteen people, including at least three children, were given temporary shelter in the homes of friends and neighbors after the second and third floors of their home at 4005 Fernhill Ave. near Garrison Boulevard were engulfed in flames.

Captain Hector Torres, the fire department spokesman, said the fire began in the second-floor apartment of Rothella Street, 23, after she left a cigarette burning on or near a bed shortly before 11 p.m.

Despite the woman's efforts to extinguish the fire with water from the bathroom, the flames got out of control and destroyed her apartment.

She, along with her three children, escaped unharmed.

Other residents fled as word spread that the building was on fire.

Also destroyed or heavily damaged were other apartments on the second floor and the entire third floor and attic. At the height of the fire, flames also broke through the slate roof.

The blaze was reported about 10:45 p.m., and fire officials sounded additional alarms at 11 p.m. and 11:22 p.m.

Nearly 100 firefighters manning 30 pieces of equipment responded and brought the fire under control at midnight.

Fire investigator Captain John Griffith said the situation could have been worse if the fire had struck while the occupants were sleeping.

"If this occurred at 3 or 4 in the morning, we'd be carrying a lot of bodies out of that house," he said at the fire scene.

Kito Horne, 36, who lived on the first floor, said she fled after hearing breaking glass and smelling smoke.

"I grabbed my clothes and ran out the front door," she said while standing with friends across the street and watching flames race throughout the house.

Her apartment sustained smoke and water damage.

Athenia Marks, of 4003 Fernhill Ave., stood on her back porch and watched as firefighters battled the blaze from all four sides on ladders and on foot.

"Thank God the fire didn't reach over here," she said.

Daryl Goodman, 20, who also lived in a first-floor apartment, said he just returned home from playing basketball and was watching TV with his girlfriend, Mrs. Horne's daughter, Kim, 21, when a next-door neighbor began banging on the door shouting, "Get out, get out, get your clothes and get out."

Mr. Goodman said every apartment had a smoke detector but that he couldn't hear the alarm ringing because of the sound of glass breaking.

"I don't think the alarm in my girlfriend's apartment went off," he said, "because the fire was on the second floor. If they went off on the other floors, I couldn't hear them."

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