ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A fire forced dozens of elderly, disabled, and wheelchair-bound residents from their Albuquerque apartment complex and they likely won’t be able to go home for days.
The fire broke out at the Solarvilla Apartments near Lomas and Wyoming around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Jose Fernandez was just a few doors down, watching TV when a neighbor alerted him to what was going on.
“He came knocking on all the doors, saying, ‘get out of here, it’s a fire in my apartment,'” said Fernandez.
Another neighbor, Marion Frias, saw the smoke.
“There was no time,” said Frias who evacuated from the multi-story complex.
Both Fernandez and Frias are among more than 40 people who were kicked out of their apartments following the fire. Going home may not be an option for days.
“Everything changed in minutes, in seconds,” said Fernandez.
Albuquerque Fire officials say the fire was started by a lit cigarette. Residents say it occurred on the third floor.
Fernandez grabbed a fire extinguisher in an effort to put out the fire, but says it was no use.
“When I opened the door, that was a huge mass of smoke, dense, coming in,” said Fernandez.
Every person got out alive, but many wonder how bad the damage is. Smoke and water damage is said to have spread throughout the building.
Neighbors spent Tuesday night staying at the Hayes Middle School gym, where Albuquerque Public Schools allowed the Red Cross to set up a shelter.
“There are quite a few elderly, there’s quite a few people who use walkers and we have at least seven people in wheelchairs,” said Doug Keaty,” a public information officer for the Red Cross in Albuquerque.
“We’re really grateful for them,” said Marion Frias, who was displaced by the fire.
While Frias says she’s grateful, she’s also without much of her critical belongings. All she has are the clothes on her back.
“I couldn’t even grab my purse and my medication was in there,” said Frias.
The displaced residents moved to an Albuquerque hotel on Wednesday night. Red Cross officials told KRQE News 13 that the owner of the apartment complex is paying for the residents’ rooms.
They may be in the hotel until next week.
“The main thing is that we all got out safe,” said Frias.
The Red Cross has also provided residents with money for food.