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The fire supposedly started around 6:30 am, alarming the residents of the 12-story building in Castle Hills, a suburb in San Antonio, Texas. Six fire departments responded to the 911: Castle Hills, Balcones Heights, Bexar-Bulverde Volunteer, Leon Valley, Bulverde and Acadian Private Ambulance. A mass casualty response unit was also at the scene.
According to San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood more than 160 firefighters rushed to save the senior citizens. A number of 75 residents had to be removed from their rooms. Some of the victims were incapable of walking on their own, needing to be carried down the stairs. Other non-ambulatory residents had to be rescued through the balcony and down the ladders in order to be evacuated. Firefighters reached the people living on the top floors with the help of platform trucks.
Hood added that there were several hundred people living in the building, and that the majority managed to escape on their own
About twelve San Antonio city buses were stationed in front of the building to offer the victims shelter from the rain and high temperatures. A nearby high school also provided temporary housing for the evacuated seniors.
Diane Pfeil, Castle Hills City Manager, said that efforts were made to send enough blankets to Churchill High School. Firefighters were put in charge of the distribution of medication. Any resident requiring their treatment would get it by simply asking the firemen.
Witnesses described how “smoke pouring from the back of the building”. The fire chief also remembered how the building looked when they entered to help citizens escape:
“The third floor hallway was absolutely gutted, the doors were charred, and the smoke and fire were communicating throughout the building.”
He added that considering the intensity of the fire, it was fortunate that so many made it alive.
Castle Hills p.t Mayor John Squire said it is still too soon to decide when the senior citizens will be allowed back in their homes. In the meantime, residents will either be accommodated in hotel rooms or be reunited with their families.
The cause of the fire has yet to be identified.
This was the second fire to break out in a high-rise building. The first incident took place shortly after the fire department finished high-rise fire training.
Image Source: CBS News