MOUNT VERNON, Wash. -- A three-alarm fire at a Mt. Vernon apartment complex injured five and displaced hundreds of people. The blaze started Tuesday night at the Cascade West Apartments along North 25th Place.
A Mount Vernon Police officer received a cut to his hand while trying to force entry and get people to safety. Four residents were taken to the hospital, including one child and three adults, who authorities say were either unconscious or sleeping despite the fire alarms.
One man was flown to Harborview with burns to his airway and skin and the hospital says he is in serious condition in intensive care. The three other residents were treated and released from Skagit Valley Hospital, according to Bryan Harris, Battalion Chief with Mt. Vernon Fire.
Witnesses said the fire spread quickly. Some of the displaced residents returned to the scene Wednesday to assess the damage.
The fire started around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. Firefighters believe it started on the third floor.
At least 200 people were displaced, with an estimated 50 people staying at a shelter at the Skagit Valley College nearby. Some people narrowly escaped the burning building, including like father of three, J.J. King.
"I went to my bedroom to get my kids, and I came outside and the fire was everywhere; if we were two minutes later, we would have never made it out," said King.
Melanie Lindvig escaped with the help of firefighters.
"A lady and a man practically dragged me down the stairs, and I almost fell," said Lindvig. She said she left in such a rush she didn't grab her teeth or medication.
“You don’t have to be scared," Jasmine Henry said.
Her 18-month old nephew, Memphis, has cried for 15 hours.
“Well, he saw the apartment complex up in flames last night," Jasmine said. “He barely understands what hot means. I had to tell him that our home is hot and he had to see it.”
Henry and her family are some of the 50 people staying at the Red Cross shelter.
She cares for Memphis, her sister's son, and her sister's two daughters, as well as her disabled mother. She now has an 8-day old baby of her own.
“The building’s condemned," explained Henry's boyfriend, Kirk Deogracia. "They’re going to let one maybe two people in at a time.”
Families lined up with trash bags to fill. They got 10 minutes inside to gather whatever they can carry.
All 38 units will be fenced off Wednesday night.
“We can’t just stay here,” Henry sobbed.
The family only has enough money for next month's rent.
"I know we just lost everything. I’m sorry,” Henry's mom said.
Anyone who wants to help is encouraged to donate money to the Red Cross or donate other items at the following locations:
Bargain Galore Thrift Shop
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
The Food Bank at St. Charles Catholic Church
935 Peterson Road
Burlington, WA 98233
Goodwill Local Locations
Mt. Vernon, Marysville, Bellingham and Anacortes
Open: Monday-Saturday 8am-8pm Sunday 9am-7pm