JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- The Applewood Retirement Community had to be evacuated Thursday as a fire spread from one apartment to the next.
The fire broke out about 5 p.m. in a second-story unit in the complex at 2445 Youngfield St. According to West Metro Fire Rescue, it started on the stove top.
The resident had just moved in and almost everything was still in cardboard boxes, making it easy for the fire to spread.
“It sort of rolled across the ceiling and then curled up over the deck on the third story,” West Metro spokeswoman Ronda Scholting said.
Flames were visible from the courtyard, showing the path the fire traveled.
Fire officials said it only spread outward and upward like it did because the door was left open to the unit on fire during the evacuation.
If the door had been shut, West Metro said the smoke would have been contained and the rest of the building wouldn’t have been as severely damaged.
The upstairs neighbor said she was asleep when the fire came into her apartment. She woke up when firefighters arrived at her door.
Both units were badly damaged from fire, water and smoke. Those residents plus the residents in one more unit will be displaced for at least a few days.
The residents in the rest of the 150 units had to leave their apartments for a few hours.
“There was just black smoke filling the hall,” seventh-grader Kaleah Wonklepleck said.
She was visiting her grandmother when the fire alarms went off.
“You couldn’t see anything up from about 2 feet off the ground, so I got down as low as I could, put my shirt over my mouth and I just ran as fast as I could,” she said.
The escape was much easier for the teenager than it was for the rest of the residents at the retirement community.
“That is why you see so many firefighters here,” Scholting said.
When responding to calls at retirement communities, it is standard practice for fire departments to send extra crews in case residents need help getting out of the building. Law enforcement officers arrived for similar reasons.
“Because you don’t know if these people aren’t mobile, if they’re not able to get out by themselves. Then they are going to have to be carried out,” Scholting said.
“Once I saw the manager, he goes, this is for real, so I helped a couple people down the stairs with walkers,” resident Bruce Hoover said.
One person was taken to the hospital. It is unclear what injuries the man is being treated for, but West Metro said he was able to walk out of the building on his own.
The rest of the community spent the evening outside waiting for the fire department to clear the smoke. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office passed out blankets and water to everyone that needed them.