'Flames were flying out': Fire in Limestone Road apartment complex leaves one building uninhabitable
Arlene Pierce was cleaning her apartment Wednesday morning when she first smelled what she thought was a barbecue.
Initially, she thought little of it. Then, the scent grew stronger.
"It started smelling like firewood burning and started getting really intense,” Pierce said. “I looked out the window, and I saw loads of smoke.”
Pierce, who lives in a bottom unit at the Crossing at Limestone apartments in Stanton, called 911, grabbed her keys and her kids and ran out.
By the time she did, the first firefighters were arriving at the complex to fight a blaze that Mill Creek Fire Company spokesman Jon Stewart said left one building "uninhabitable."
Firefighters were called to the apartments, which are located directly next to the Kirkwood Highway Wawa, at 11:30 a.m., Stewart said.
When fire personnel arrived, which was just two minutes after the first 911 call came in, there was already "heavy, heavy smoke, down to the road," Stewart said.
"The fire quickly escalated (from the third floor) and moved to the attic and through the roof of the building," Stewart said. "Firefighters acted quickly, but unfortunately the fire was well involved by the time the (firetrucks) arrived."
Ten fire companies responded to the two-alarm fire: Minquas Fire Company 1, Aetna Hook and Ladder, Cranston Heights Fire Company, Hockessin Fire Company, Elsmere Fire Company, Mill Creek Fire Company, Belvedere Fire Company, Christiana Fire Company, Wilmington Manor Fire Company and St. Francis Hospital Rehab unit. In total, Stewart said about 85 fire and EMS personnel, as well as Delaware State Police and New Castle County Police Department officers, were on scene.
The nearby Wawa provided soup, sandwiches and drinks to first responders for free. A table was set up in the middle of Limestone Road for them, which fire and EMS personnel gathered around several hours after the blaze was extinguished.
Pierce, whose apartment is in the building connected to where the blaze began, said she was shocked by how quickly the fire intensified.
“I was shaking; all I could think of was my kids. I was like, ‘Guys, let’s go,’" she said. "As a mother, you don’t want anything happening to them.”
Jessica Mahek, another resident of the complex, said she and her husband live across from the apartment where the fire started.
"Flames were flying out of (the resident's) balcony," she said.
Mahek said she and her husband could feel the heat coming from the fire. They took belongings out of their apartment because they were afraid it would spread, she said.
Brian Trinsey, who was visiting his fiancée, Ashley, said he, too, grabbed as much as he could before getting out of her apartment, which is located in the building right next to where the fire began.
He was about to get in the shower when he heard fire alarms sounding. Then, a woman came and banged on the door, shouting, "Fire!"
Trinsey quickly got dressed and grabbed Ashley’s cat, Scooby.
“(The cat) was in the closet because she was scared, and I had to scramble to get her out,” Trinsey said. “I didn’t even lock up because I was in such a hurry.”
Both Trinsey and the cat watched from outside as firefighters continued to battle the blaze. He said he was glad he and the cat were OK — but was worried about the people whose apartment was most damaged.
“I hope if anyone was in that apartment, they’re OK, and the people (who were injured) don’t have serious injuries,” Trinsey said.
Stewart said one firefighter suffered second-degree burns to his neck and was taken to Christina Hospital. No one else was injured, though a few residents were evaluated at the scene.
Firefighters were able to rescue "a couple of dogs" from apartments in the building.
The blaze displaced about 20 residents, Stewart said, and the damage may reach more than $1 million. He said the Office of the State Fire Marshal investigators have not yet determined the cause of the fire or where exactly it began.
Police closed Limestone Road (Del. 7) south of Kirkwood Highway for several hours because of the blaze.
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