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25 evacuated when fire erupts in Calexico apartment complex

July 30, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — A fire here Sunday severely damaged one apartment and led to the evacuation of 25 people, some of whom tried to fight the blaze themselves.

Fire officials reported this morning firefighters' efforts to control the fire were hampered because the first crew on scene had to wait for more firefighters before it could go inside the apartment.

The fire erupted shortly before 10 p.m. in an apartment complex at 308 7th St.

Calexico fire Capt. Ernesto Avila said a first crew of two firefighters arrived by 10:02 p.m. but could not start to attack the fire until minutes later when a second crew arrived.

Avila said firefighters first had to clear people out of harm's way, adding some people were attempting to fight the fire themselves.

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Avila credited residents for trying to help but said people should not endanger themselves by trying to help the Fire Department.

He added the fire was not a difficult blaze to fight.

"The problem wasn't extinguishing the fire," he said. "The problem was having to wait around to get enough firefighters on scene."

The law states a firefighter cannot enter a burning building unless another firefighter enters with him and another two firefighters are outside the building.

Avila said shortly before the call came in crews had been called to two medical aid calls.

When enough firefighters arrived, Avila said crews entered the apartment and started to battle the blaze from the inside.

He said the fire was quickly extinguished and was limited to one of five apartments in the complex.

Ten firefighters responded, including off-duty personnel.

Four families were allowed to return to their apartments. The apartment that was damaged by fire was condemned. Five people, including children ages 5 to 10, lived in that apartment.

No one was injured in the fire, which caused about $75,000 in damages.

Avila said firefighters think an explosion from a short circuit in a television sparked the fire, although the specific cause had yet to be officially declared.

Avila said Sunday's fire is an example of how a shortage of firefighters can hamper responses. He said the department should have 24 firefighters but is down to 16.

He said the city ideally should have one firefighter per 1,000 residents.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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