A 10-year-old child is dead after a fire broke out at a Northeast Heights apartment complex. The fire also left two other children in critical condition.
Fire crews said people were jumping from their balconies and windows at the Sierra Meadows Apartments to escape the flames.
Crews had accounted for all but one of the complex’s residents, a child. There was hope from neighbors and the crews on the scene that they would find that child to be okay, but sadly that wasn’t the outcome.
“We believe this is, in fact, the child that was unaccounted for,” AFR Lt. Tom Ruiz said. “What we have to be sensitive to is that there is a young child that did indeed die because of this fire.”
Video from Sky News 13 shows just how damaged the apartment building is. Albuquerque Fire Rescue says firefighters arrived just after 2 a.m.
People who live there say they believe the fire started on the second floor. A total of 31 people were living in the eight-unit building. Among them were two children who remain in critical condition for smoke inhalation, and a woman who injured her leg after jumping from her second-story apartment.
A family of five was able to make it out but lost everything.
“Unfortunately even their animals, they couldn’t gather their animals in time with how fast and furious it was,” Margaret Hernandez, a family friend, said.
Neighbors said when fire crews arrived the building was fully engulfed in flames.
“They hit it with the water and it just blew up from there,” Ted Jelson said. “Somebody’s yelling fire and some woman’s yelling, ‘My baby, my baby, my baby.'”
Jelson, who lives behind the apartments, said he started to water down his trees when he heard people on the other side of the wall yelling for help.
“He was holding on to a little kid and he said, ‘Soak us, soak us,'” Jelson said. “I guess there was no way for them to get out so I sprayed them with the hose.”
Jelson said the scene was chaotic and too close for comfort.
“I sure do pray for that little boy and all the families,” Jelson said. “I wish there was more I could do.”
AFR has not identified the child who was killed in the fire but police have confirmed they located a 10-year-old deceased male after the fire was extinguished.
Late Tuesday night, Albuquerque Police stated that APD officers, as well as AFR, were sent to the fire call after dispatchers reported hearing a woman on the phone saying, “Please don’t hurt me”. First responders then arrived at the scene to discover the complex was on fire.
Authorities say it remains unknown at this time who made the statement.
As for what caused the blaze, that remains under investigation. The Albuquerque Police Department confirmed that Crime Against Children and Homicide Detectives are now assisting in the investigation.
The Red Cross is ensuring that all impacted residents have shelter, food, clothing and comfort kits. People interested in helping can go to www.redcross.org to help with monetary donations.