Children tossed from windows to escape East Hartford fire - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Children tossed from windows to escape East Hartford fire

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EAST HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

The East Hartford Fire Department said 10 people, including three firefighters, were hospitalized after a three-alarm fire at the Gateway Estates apartments on Ellington Road early Tuesday morning.

Now the fire investigation has been turned over to investigators to see if the blaze is the work of an arsonist.

There have been a total of five suspected arson cases at the complex dating back to 2009.

The East Hartford Fire Department was called to the Gateway Estates apartments after 4 a.m. after receiving word of the fire.

"The first company was pulling up and people were hanging out of every window," said East Hartford Fire Chief John Oates.

Emergency officials said multiple people were trapped inside the building, and several people needed to jump from windows to escape the massive flames.

"I opened the door and I saw whole hallway was smoking," said Arnold N'Tiamoah, who lives in the apartment complex. "So, I had to pick up my little girl, like 8 months, and we had to run for our life here."

Fire officials said parents were even tossing their children from windows to make sure they made it out of the burning building. One of the people that jumped from one of the upper floors was seriously injured in the fall and was brought to a local hospital.

The 50-unit building sustained severe damage and more than 100 people have been displaced.

Buses brought residents to an emergency shelter that was set up at the North End Senior Center at 40 Remington Rd. The Connecticut chapter of the American Red Cross said it set up the shelter to provide them with food and shelter in the wake of the fire.

East Hartford fire officials said any resident displaced by the fire should report to the North End Senior Center and should check in with staff so appropriate services can be provided to tenants.

Officials said residents could be displaced from the building for months. The American Red Cross is currently searching for alternate housing for the residents.

It's unknown how the fire started, but officials said they will investigate to see if it's the work of an arsonist. However, as of Tuesday night, the fire had not been ruled an arson.

"Hopefully, by the end of the day, we hope we know what direction we're heading in," Oates said.

In the last few weeks, East Hartford fire officials have been called to the Gateway Estates apartments because someone started setting fires in front of apartment doors.

"You look at the history of the building, and our experience in the building, and it does kind of make you wonder," Oates said. "You know, is it a string of bad luck or is something else going on here?"

On Tuesday afternoon, a dog trained to sniff out substances used to quickly start fires was among the many tools being used as investigators try to determine what caused a fire. 

It is unclear if Tuesday's fire is in any way connected to previous fires at the apartment building.

"We have not had any leads on that at this time," said East Hartford Mayor Marcia A. Leclerc

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