Eyewitness: Two Women Escaped Burning Apartment by Jumping from 3rd Floor
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Residents of two dozen apartment units in Salt Lake City are homeless after a quick-moving, three-alarm fire raced through the roof of the building early Wednesday morning.
Firefighters got the call just after 2 a.m. to respond to the Seasons at Pebble Creek apartment complex located at 1620 West Snow Queen Place. When they arrived they found the fire, which started on the third floor, had already spread into the roof.
Fire crews worked to evacuate the burning building and nearby buildings before taking a defensive position to keep other buildings from catching fire.
“I never saw a big fire like this before,” said Paulina Ku, who was visiting an apartment in an adjacent building.
Ku said she awoke to smelling smoke and hearing screaming.
“I saw two women hanging outside already,” she recalls.
It was a mother and daughter who were trapped in their third-floor apartment and were trying to escape through separate windows, according to Ku. Neighbors rushed to find something to cushion their impending falls but didn’t have enough time.
“They were screaming and then they were hanging on the window but her daughter’s grabbing the tree and then fell off,” Ku said.
The mother fell next. In video that Ku captured on her cellphone, neighbors are seen attending to a woman on the ground with an obvious injury to her ankle. A fire department spokesperson said the woman was later transported to the hospital.
“It’s already a big fire on that side of her room so that’s why I think she can’t find an exit that way so that’s why she jumped,” Ku said.
The 60 firefighters on the scene brought the blaze under control by 3:35 a.m., according to the Salt Lake City Fire Department.
It’s important to know what to do if you are trapped by a fire and the only way out is an upper-floor window, said firefighter Ryan Love with the Unified Fire Authority.
The first step is to get into a room that is as far away from the fire as possible. Second, close the door and seal off the airflow by putting towels or clothes under the door. Then, call 911 and tell the operator where you are trapped.
“Give them your physical location within the structure,” Love said. “That way firefighters know exactly upon arrival where they need to throw the ladder.”
Once firefighters arrive, Love instructs to make yourself visible by yelling and drawing attention to yourself.
“Wave something if you can,” he said. “That way the fire department can see you.”
Jumping is always a risk but could be the only option, depending on the danger.
“If you can escape through a window on the first floor, absolutely,” Love said. “Falls can become fatal on the second and above. So if you’re on the second floor that needs to be a last resort.”
Fire investigators say they have determined the room where the fire started but have not yet determined a cause. However, all indicators point to an accidental fire, said fire Captain Dan Marlowe.