Several tenants leapt to safety after Concord Hills Apartments on Sherbrooke Avenue in Hartford caught fire Tuesday morning around seven.
Investigators searching for a cause focused on the second floor where the first firefighters on the scene said they found pieces of furniture on fire.
The smoke was so thick that some tenants had to be rescued by a fire truck ladder. Others didn’t wait, and jumped into the arms of their neighbors, tossing their children out the window, to escape the flames.
“I’ve been through a fire before so this was a little scary,” said tenant Rosalie Rivera, tearing up.
Rivera said this time she made sure to leave as soon as the smoke detector went off, with her husband and children in tow.
“Very scary, very scary. They were crying,” said Rivera.
“When we went into the hallway there was a ton of smoke and it was very hard to see,” added her ten-year-old daughter Eliana Sanchez.
Joselyn Nievez didn’t waste any time either.
“Everything was pitch black when I left. You couldn’t see what was on fire or anything, it was just pitch black full of smoke,” said Nievez.
With a second floor apartment near the exit, Nievez was able to quickly escape. Another tenant we spoke to, wasn’t so lucky.
“As I went to open the front door it was just all black smoke,” said one tenant who didn’t want to be identified.
She described the harrowing moments that led her to jump out of her second-floor window.
“I went to the window, I see people outside, some people are throwing their babies out, people who live in the baby were catching them. A few of the guys from the building told me to just jump and they’re going to catch me, and that’s what I had to do.”
The fire department said six people, including two children were taken to the hospital for evaluation, five for smoke inhalation and one for a leg injury.
“We couldn’t even walk outside so we had to stay in there until Hartford fire department showed up, so that was our only hope,” said tenant Tyrone White.
White and his roommate escaped down a fire truck ladder. Authorities say five other people, including two children, jumped to safety from a second-floor window.
Tenants spent most of the day waiting to get back into their apartments. Authorities said 60 of the building’s 131 units were deemed unlivable. Tenants in the fifty-six occupied units that were most affected were told to prepare to stay at a hotel for two weeks. Tenants living in the rest of the building were allowed to return.
As she waited to get back in, Rivera worried that the fire damaged all of the Christmas presents her children just received, but added, “That’s all stuff you can replace. You can’t replace their lives.”
Nievez and other tenants said they first heard the fire alarm go off at five a.m.. She said after it was turned off the fire department left, around six. An hour later, tenants said their hallways started to fill up with smoke. A spokesperson for the fire department said they are now looking into whether the first one was a false alarm.