Seven people are recovering from injuries after a fire breaks out in a Beloit senior apartment complex.
44 senior citizens are very grateful for the quick response of their fire department late Saturday night.
Apartment Manager Judy Anderson was still in shock while surveying the damage to the High School Apartments. "The whole first floor basically is ruined and one apartment was totally gutted."
The fire filled the hallways with thick smoke and panic just after midnight Sunday. Anderson describes the scene in just two words, "Total chaos."
Beloit Assistant Fire Chief Tim Curtis says firefighters found heavy fire pushing from the first floor. They were immediately faced with a choice. "We had to make a decision to attack the fire and also remove the victims that we could get to on the first floor. We also had crews go to the second and third floor and assist with removing patients. We had heavy smoke on the second and third floor."
The fire was contained to a first floor apartment, but all 44 people needed to be evacuated–many of them directly assisted by firefighters. "Some of them on the first floor had to be removed from windows," says Curtis.
Anderson says they were lucky no one was killed. "A very lucky situation. About seven people went to the hospital. Most have been released, one is still fighting the inhalation, but she's going to be ok."
Anderson says some residents waited in a nearby church for family members to come pick them up. "The church next door took us in and out of the goodness of their hearts–it was a wonderful warm place–gave them coffee, things to drink, cookies."
Work has already begun on cleaning up the complex and Anderson hopes residents can come home in a couple days.
Early estimates say the fire caused $450,000 worth of damage.