Victims Jump From Windows to Escape Hartford Fire

A resident says the smoke alarms regularly go off that people in the building ignore them

gillett apartment fire hartford
NBC Connecticut

People jumped from second floor windows to escape a fire in an apartment building in Hartford, Connecticut, Sunday morning.

Firefighters were called to 31 Gillett Street around 7:30 a.m. after heavy smoke filled the building, according to Fire Chief Michael Dempsey.

Blankets and sheets hung from the broken windows where people tried to escape the fire.

“We opened the door. All the smoke was really really dark in the hallway,” resident Juan Valez described.

“I was asleep. My daughter woke me up. Then I heard the alarm, then she told me the building was on fire and then we ran out,” added another resident, Betty Kennedy who lives on the fourth floor.

Authorities believe the fire started in a 2nd floor apartment in the back of the building when a man fell asleep while cooking French fries on the stove.

“It’s scary. You never know, especially when you live in a building like this,” said Valez.

The fire sent smoke through all four floors, according to the Fire Department’s Public Information Officer, Captain Raul Ortiz.

“There were people in the back screaming banging on the windows telling people to get out, so we just woke up and ran downstairs,” recalled Zatanya Irving, who lives on the third floor.

Irving told us the smoke alarms go off so regularly in this building, most people ignore them. By the time some residents realized the fire was real, it was too late.

“We did know we had something serious happening once we saw people hanging out the windows,” said Ortiz.

Valez’s girlfriend was one of three people taken to the hospital.

“She’s not feeling well. Her chest is kind of tight. They gave her some blood tests to see how much smoke she inhaled,” he said.

Authorities said a dog also died in the fire.

After 90 minutes, residents were allowed back into all but three of the building’s 64 units. Fire officials said the unit where the fire started was destroyed and two more were uninhabitable.

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