NAUGATUCK — Six people were rescued from the top floors of a three-story Terrace Avenue apartment building after fire engulfed a ground-floor unit Sunday night.
The occupant of the fire-damaged apartment was hospitalized for smoke inhalation, and a firefighter was treated for exhaustion, Fire Capt. Jim Trzaski said.
The fire marshal’s office was probing for a cause late Sunday. Trzaski said the fire did not appear suspicious.
A half-dozen people were hanging out of windows on the top floors of the 12-unit Terrace Apartments at 66 Terrace Ave. when firefighters pulled up shortly after 6:30 p.m.
Fire had traveled from the burning apartment up the fire escape, and heavy smoke was filling the top floors. Firefighters set up a ladder on the ground and extended the tower from the ladder truck, Tower 1, to reach people.
Another crew brought hoses inside to extinguish the flames. The fire was put out within minutes, but the apartment was destroyed, and there was heavy smoke damage throughout the 9,386-square-foot building.
Trzaski said the department has made plenty of rescues before, but he couldn’t recall having to save that many people at once.
“To rescue multiple victims simultaneously was quite taxing,” he said.
Tenants were allowed back inside their apartments to get some belongings, but they had to find another place to sleep Sunday night for safety reasons, Trzaski said.
Most stayed with friends or relatives, but two needed accommodations from the American Red Cross, which responded to the fire.
The department has only eight firefighters on duty every shift, and all eight were at the apartment within minutes of the alarm.
Trzaski called for mutual aid from Waterbury, which brought 10 firefighters with a police escort through the borough. Beacon Falls volunteers stood by at headquarters.
Dazed residents stood outside on the street, some wrapped in bathrobes, as firefighters put out the flames and cleaned up.
Tenant Dave Mancini said he heard the fire alarm, then sirens. He walked outside and saw smoke pouring from two windows.
“It looked like it was coming out of the second floor, but they said it was on the first floor,” said Mancini, a two-year resident of the building.
Another tenant, Josh Cassin, who has lived in the building for only two weeks, saw the smoke after the fire engines pulled up.
He grabbed a bottle of water, his cellphone and keys, and raced out of the building, he said.
“They did a really good job,” he said of firefighters. “They were very coordinated right from the start.”
Another tenant, who declined to give her name, said she was alerted by her neighbor’s cat, who was wailing as smoke crawled upstairs. The cat was rescued.
There were at least two other cats in the building, including Cassin’s, and both were believed to be OK. Cassin said he saw his cat through a window from the street.
According to assessment records, the building is owned by Wayne P. Buckmiller, and is assessed at $1.04 million. It was built in 1860.