PASCO, Wash.- An investigation is underway to determine the exact cause of the fire that destroyed much of a Pasco apartment building last night, leaving many residents temporarily displaced.
Some fire crews left Sacajawea Apartments on Sylvester Street and 4th Avenue around 6 a.m. on Sunday. What they have gathered and what they are willing to confirm is not much yet, but NBC Right Now was there last night as the fire tore through the building and nearly took the lives of many people.
"One of my tenants that was running up and down the stairs and the hallway was saying that it's a real fire, to get out," said Billie Vinson, the manager of the apartment building.
Many of the residents of the Sacajawea Apartments made it out of the building before the smoke and the flames became unbearable, but some didn't.
"We had fire on two floors," explained Pasco Fire Department Battalion Chief Dave Hare. "We had smoke on four floors and we had residents trapped on floors two through six. Obviously we want you to escape and exit by the quickest route possible. If you can't do that then we want you to barricade in place."
That's exactly what some people trapped on the upper floors had to do. Fire crews brought many people out of the building using ladders. Some disabled persons had to seek shelter and wait until they could be taken out on stretchers. Vinson said many of her tenants were complaining about the time it took fire crews to respond.
"I would say 10 to 15 minute response and then before they actually took action was probably another 10 minutes," said Vinson.
But the Fire Officials say there's no way the trip could have taken anywhere near that long. "From the time that our units were dispatched, I believe that was like 21:13. First arriving unit was on the scene at 21:16," said Hare.
That would make for a three-minute response time according to fire officials, who also tell us fires like this one can be prevented. The six floor apartment building had no sprinkler system installed according to the manager, and by the time anyone could see flames, the extinguishers on hand weren't of much use.
"I feel completely shaken, completely distraught and very sad because I don't know how long we're going to be displaced for," said Vinson. "A lot of people live on a budget and I'm just worried about them losing things; their personal property from smoke damage and the apartments that were burnt down. My heart is broken for them."
The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, but according to one resident she had lit a candle in her apartment and fell asleep. She believes that may have been the cause, but that is still being investigated by Pasco fire officials. No one died in last night's fire and only four people suffered from some smoke inhalation.