A fire broke out Tuesday morning in the Cooper Street Apartments resulting in a student jumping out the second story window of her apartment.
Mary Jane Brandon, the manager Cooper Street Apartments said the fire station was called as soon as the fire broke out at approximately 2:30 a.m. The residents of the complex’s six apartments were evacuated until the fire was extinguished at 4 a.m. Brandon said that this was the first fire in the 15 years that she has worked there.
“The gentleman who lived downstairs went outside and called up to the girl who was in the room upstairs. She was yelling because of all of the smoke in the apartment, but there were no flames upstairs. So she jumped out of the window and he caught her.”
Gary Agostino, the maintenance manager for the apartment complex, was a witness to the events.
“It was like the fairgrounds out there, there were lights, firemen, cops, people running around, smoke everywhere,” Agostino said. “There was four tankers over here, an ambulance was there, the cops were here, there were people from all over outside thinking it was a big party watching smoke coming out of that building.”
Agostino said that he believes the fire was started because the residents stuffed some of their flammable possessions into the hot water tank room.
Many residents take their batteries out of their smoke detectors to prevent them from going off while they are cooking, according to Agostino. Because of this, the staff often perform safety checks where they go room to room checking to make sure that the smoke detectors are on and the hot water tank room is clean. Each of the complex’s 60 apartments has smoke detectors in each bedroom, the main hallways, the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen.
“There’s a reason why you’re supposed to have these in your apartment,” Agostino said. “These smoke detectors will save your ass, don’t you understand that? You can die. If you don’t care, you can go outside and stand in front of a truck.”
Brandon said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Agostino explained that there is evidence that the hot water tank was tampered with by one of the residents. The cover of the hot water heater was missing, which could have prevented the heater from overheating.
“We won’t do anything, Agostino said. “I know what he did, he knows what he did, and the fire marshal knows what he did. If they wanted to press charges, they could have located him by now. We have his name, his lease and his phone number. With something like that, what are you going to do? It’s a valuable lesson learned.”
The residents are not supposed to go into the apartment, because it is a safety hazard. Glass, water, and ash covered the carpet, while the heat made the walls sweat, and the paint start to peel. The smoke alarm melted off of the wall and there was soot covering the walls and ceiling.
Agostino estimates that the repairs should take three weeks to a month. The apartment will take one day to be gutted out, the carpet, ceiling, stairs, doors, and walls will be replaced, and the appliances will be professionally cleaned.
Before repairs can be made, the insurance company needs to come in to assess the damages and make an estimate. Agostino said that they called the insurance company, but they have yet to respond.
The residents of the apartment were offered a motel outside of town to stay at until the repairs were completed, but because none of the residents own a car they declined, and decided to stay with friends instead.
“They didn’t have renter’s insurance, and if they would have had renter’s insurance for $120 for a whole year it would have given $20,000 or $30,000 worth of coverage,” Agostino said.
“If you rent, you should have it. If someone comes into your apartment and slips and falls, it’s not us that gets sued, it’s you, and insurance covers that.”