September 30, 2023

Feb. 20–Albuquerque firefighters rescued a woman from the balcony of a burning second-floor apartment early Thursday morning, but were unable to save another person from the deadly blaze.

Firefighters arrived at the 1000 block of Coal SW around 2:30 a.m. and found one apartment in the 19-unit building engulfed in flames and fire spreading to adjoining apartments, Capt. Jason Garcia said in an email.

The woman was carried down a ladder from the second-story balcony and the fire was put out within 20 minutes, Garcia said.

She was not injured, but when the crew entered the apartment on a search and rescue mission, they found a person dead inside, he said.

Garcia said the victim lived in the apartment, but didn’t release a name or gender.

A third resident, a 30-year-old man, suffered severe burns and was hospitalized in critical condition. And a 45-year-old man, who lives next door, was taken to the hospital with lacerations and was in stable condition, according to the fire department.

Two apartments had substantial fire damage and four other tenants had to stay elsewhere due to damage to their apartments.

There was obvious charring outside an apartment on the west and south sides of the building Thursday morning, and a sliding glass door was missing above the balcony. Debris was piled up on the balcony, and the room off the balcony was gutted and charred.

Clairie Miller, who helps manage an apartment building across the street that wasn’t affected, said when she heard the news she rushed to check if it was her building.

“We were in total panic mode when we heard it on the radio this morning,” Miller said. “Luckily it wasn’t ours. But it’s terrible, and it happens anywhere. It’s just awful.”

Investigators carried out a body on a stretcher around 9:30 a.m. and loaded it into a gray, unmarked van. The body was draped in a green, satin-looking cloth. An arson investigation truck was parked in the apartment complex parking lot.

Robert Pineda, who lives across the street, said he woke up around 2:30 a.m. because his dogs were barking and, when he went outside, he saw flames rising 8 feet above the roof of the apartment.

“I was worried. There are kids and families who live over there,” he said.

The fire department is investigating what caused the fire.

The complex’s manager said a young couple lived in the apartment and a friend was staying over Wednesday night.

“I didn’t know them personally, but they were nice people,” he said.

Another apartment resident, Annette Gomez, said she woke up in the middle of the night when a neighbor started banging on the door to tell her to leave. She went to the parking lot with her grandkids.

“It was a lot of flames, I don’t mean a spark, it was engulfed,” Gomez said. “It was horrific. I’m amazed about what took place.”

Copyright 2015 – Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

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