Resident finds apartment engulfed in flames after walking the dog

A standard Thursday morning in the Claremont Village was turned upside down when a four-unit apartment building in the 300 block of W. 12th Street caught on fire, consuming a bedroom in one of the upstairs units.

The Claremont Police Department was the first to respond, after receiving a 9-1-1 call from the resident of the unit on fire around 10:30 a.m. According to police, the resident had been walking a neighbor’s dog when she returned home to find her apartment filled with smoke. By the time officers arrived, the apartment was engulfed in flames.

“There were flames coming out of both doors,” said Claremont Police Lieutenant Shelly Vander Veen. “Our main focus was evacuating the building and making sure everyone was outside.”

Claremont Fire Station 101 was the next to respond, followed by 4 fire engines, two trucks, one paramedic and two battalion chiefs. Flames were extinguished within 15 minutes, according to Battalion Chief Arthur Ellis. There were no injuries to residents or emergency responders. The fire was started and contained within the bedroom of one of the upstairs units, but the source of the fire is unknown, says Mr. Ellis.

The occupant of the charred unit was on scene, but declined comment.

Gretchen Fassbinder, a neighbor around the corner from the fourplex, was at home with her daughter when she heard the sirens and saw the smoke. She turned the corner to find the source of the commotion, and found herself face-to-face with the flames.

“The flames were just incredible,” she said. “They were just pouring out of the window.”

Alexia Calzada, a resident of the fourplex and a Claremont College student, was relaxing on her couch when she heard a woman shrieking outside. It wasn’t until she stepped onto her front porch to check on the source of the screaming that she saw and smelled the smoke.

Ms. Calzada said she is usually in class on Thursday mornings, but had decided to skip last minute. “I was comfy and bed and had moved over to the couch when the screaming started,” she said.  

Though no other unit in the complex was damaged, and Ms. Calzada and a majority of the other occupants will be able to return to their units this evening, she remained concerned for her grief-stricken neighbor.

“I just hope she’s ok,” Ms. Calzada expressed.

Twelfth Street between Yale and Indian Hill was shutdown into Thursday afternoon as emergency responders continued to search the complex for hotspots. The source of the fire is currently under investigation. Mr. Ellis estimates about $50,000 in damages and property loss.

—Beth Hartnett


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