One week before Christmas, more than a dozen people are now homeless after a fast moving fire destroyed a multi-family home in the Upper Albany neighborhood of Hartford.
Crews were called to the home, a three-story multi-family dwelling at 190-192 Edgewood St., near the intersection of Greenfield Street, shortly before 3 a.m. after callers reported seeing flames shooting from the building.
When firefighters arrived on scene, they found heavy smoke and flames coming from the second and third floor windows as well as the roof of the building.
A neighbor said the resident of the first floor came running over to her home saying the house was on fire. She brought them inside her home and called 911.
"I heard my doorbell ring," said neighbor Catina Jones. "Turned out it was my neighbor next door from the first floor where the fire started, with all her kids, saying that her house was on fire."
At first, they were not sure if the residents on the second and third floor had made it out safely. However, they were seen a short time later coming out the back door of the home.
To get out of the building, a 17-year-old daughter passed her seven brothers and sisters out of a first-story window to safety. She was taken to Saint Francis Hospital with smoke inhalation, but is expected to be OK.
Another resident, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair, was inside in the home when a neighbor from across the street ran inside and carried her to safety. The fire department plans to honor the man in a special ceremony for "his heroic actions."
Crews initially attempted to enter the building to fight the fire, but had to evacuate a short time later and attempt to battle the blaze using ladder trucks.
"The companies went inside, knocked it down," said Hartford Fire Department Capt. Kevin Singleton. "We had to go defensive, due to the fire conditions. (We) came back out, went defensive. Fire is out."
The fire captain said the cold temperatures made battling the blaze more difficult as the scene became very icy and slippery. Firefighters were falling at the scene, but we were able to overcome it and get back to fighting the blaze.
The fire also started to melt the siding of a nearby home, but firefighters were able to prevent the damage from spreading.
While firefighters fought the blaze, residents of the building still in their pajamas and stocking feet were shuttled to a bus to keep warm.
Officials said 17 people, including four adults and 13 children, from three units were displaced by the fire.
The American Red Cross is assisting the families with emergency housing, food and clothing needs.
"Talking with the families after the fire, we learned that two teens in the building were helpful in assisting others out of the house," said Red Cross volunteer Sandra Sorel-Leduc. "What they did was especially brave and important in getting everyone out safely."
Hartford Fire Department Special Services Unit is accepting donations for the victims. Anyone interested can call 860-757-4521.
The CT Transit, which brought a bus to the scene, is organizing a toy drive for the victims.
The fire is believed to be accidental and the cause of the blaze could have been a space heater that was too close to bedding in a children's room.
Smoke detectors were in the home and able to alert the residents. The detectors were provided by the Hartford Fire Department Special Services Unit free program.
Jones said any fire is devastating, but to see so many lose so much just a week before Christmas, is heartbreaking.
"Scary, especially it being the holidays," Jones said. "It's just really scary because you never know. I'm just glad everyone got out OK."
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