One man dead, 22 displaced after apartment fire


by Katie Utehs and

Posted on December 22, 2010 at 7:17 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 23 at 8:30 AM

SPOKANE, Wash. – One man died and 22 others are displaced after a downtown Spokane apartment building caught fire early Wednesday evening.

The Red Cross opened a shelter at North Central High School for all the renters left without a place to stay.

Firefighters combed through each of the 33 units inside the apartment building and told renters they may be able to return home sometime Thursday. 

The fire was first reported just before 5 P.M. Wednesday at the Sherwood Apartments at Bernard and Main and quickly escalated to three alarms.

Firefighters were able to knock out the fire in under an hour.

People rushed out of the smoking building and firefighters used ladders to pull at least two people from upper floor units that couldn’t get down the stairs.

About an hour before the fire sparked, crews received a medical call from an elderly man in that same building.  He had accidentally hit his medical alarm.  Crews left after helping him with his oxygen tank.

When firefighters returned, they found same elderly man dead.  Investigators believe the fire started in his third floor apartment, but have not released the cause. His identity will be released after the autopsy.

Sonia Kellerman received a frantic call from her 15-year-old daughter as smoke filled their apartment.

"She was just screaming, crying, saying, ‘someone help me, help me,’” said Kellerman. “I said, ”Oh my god call 911.’"

Firefighters pulled Kellerman's daughter out of a window to safety.  Kellerman said she was taken to the hospital with a cut to her arm.

The manager of the building was also taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

Fire investigators estimated damage to the apartment building to be about $75,000.