LITTLETON, Colo. -- Nearly 100 senior citizens were without a place to sleep Wednesday night after a fire ripped through a retirement complex Wednesday morning.
The fire started about 11:30 a.m. at the Southview Place Towers at 5820 S. Windermere St. Littleton Fire Rescue said the fire began on the fourth floor and spread to three units. It is unclear how the fire started.
“It was in behind the walls in one of the units and it spread vertically as well as adjacent,” firefighter Tim Woodward said.
The building had to be evacuated and it was more challenging than usual because of the population. There are 130 units in the complex, and many of the residents are disabled or on oxygen.
Several were trapped in their units or on balconies until firefighters could rescue them. Many of the seniors were carried out of the building.
“Many of them couldn’t walk out to get help so we tried to protect them in place as much as possible,” Woodward said.
Four residents were taken to the hospital for evaluation of minor injuries. The rest were not home or made it outside safely.
Resident Eleanor Medina said she was scared during the ordeal.
“Yes, very scared because I’m halfway disabled and I almost started to trip coming out of our apartment," she said.
There is significant smoke and water damage to the fourth and fifth floors of the five-story building. The water and power had to be shut off because of the fire, leaving all 130 units uninhabitable.
The American Red Cross opened a temporary shelter at a school across the street. Displaced residents were given food, water, coffee and a place to sit and rest.
The Red Cross also opened an emergency overnight shelter at Littleton United Methodist Church (5894 S. Datura St.). About 30 seniors were transported from the day shelter by bus to spend the night. They slept on cots in the church gymnasium.
“I imagine it’s going to be rough,” displaced resident Richard Cowan said. “Because I’m sure that everybody has bad backs and everything else.”
Cowan uses a walker but said he will be fine as long as he has his oxygen tank. While it will likely be a long night for him and his neighbors, they are all surprisingly positive about the whole thing.
“As long as I don’t get a roommate that snores,” he joked.
There is no estimated time that residents will be allowed back in the building. Some residents might be allowed back in Thursday.
The fire department went back inside the apartments to gather necessary medications for the residents and delivered them to the shelters.
The Humane Society of the South Platte Valley is handling displaced residents’ pets. It rescued 15 animals from the apartments and will house them until the residents are allowed back inside their units.