Residents flee fire in Chandler apartment complex

Several residents jumped out of windows and firefighters rescued six others in a Chandler apartment complex after they were trapped by a fire that started in one unit blocked a stairwell.

Authorities say the fire started at 4:00 a.m. Wednesday morning and crews were busy putting out the smoldering flames around the apartment
near Chandler Blvd. and Dobson.

"We believe it started in the balcony of the first floor apartment and spread up to the second floor.  We had quite a few people at home at this time and we had to have several rescues outside the second floor windows," said Chandler Fire Department Battalion Chief Keith Welch. 

One of those rescues was for Art Bennett. He lived on the second floor with his son, two friends and a dog.  They all made it out safely.

Bennett actually went downstairs and woke his son and friends up and then afterwards he dropped them outside the side window -- it was a scary situation.

"I really don't know what woke me up.. I think it was maybe some of the banging that was going on downstairs. We didn't have any fire alarms going off or anything yet and I saw one of the sires, you know, the blue lights outside, so I opened up the door and there was just a wall of fire so I shut the door immediately and got my kids.. my kid and their friend and his friends.. knocked out the window and bailed out," explained Bennett.

"I was ready to jump and the fireman said, 'wait, wait, I'll get you a ladder.'  I got lucky," added Bennett.

For being in a tough situation, he walked through the apartment, which is a complete loss and still has a smile on his face.

"We're alive. It's fine. It can all be replaced, it's no big deal," said Bennett, who will be staying with family in the meantime.

Others in the area explained what they saw happening:

"I looked outside, I heard a pop, so I look outside and saw nothing but smoke. You could hardly see the flames, but then I went back in the house, grabbed a phone and called 911 and got everybody in the room so it was easier to get out that way," said a resident at the scene.

Another resident added, "I went and looked around the corner and there was a bunch of flames from the first floor, working up towards the second floor.  That's when I ran back to my house to wake everybody up. And then by the time I came back again, the fire department was pretty quick about getting here. And people started jumping out the second floor.. the kids, the teenagers and then the adults.. they had to bring a ladder."

Four apartment units are a complete loss and the families are looking for a place to stay.

50 firefighters from Chandler, Gilbert and Phoenix were at the scene, all working together.

Officials say a pregnant woman at the scene suffered a bit of smoke inhalation.  She is expected to be okay.


The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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