Residents escape White Center apartment fire

by: Maria Guerrero Updated:

KING COUNTY, Wash. —

There were terrifying moments for some residents as an apartment complex caught fire Sunday morning.

It happened at around 8:30 a.m. along 16th Avenue Southwest and Southwest 107th Street in White Center.

Residents said they knew a man who uses an oxygen tank was inside the burning unit and the flames didn't stop one neighbor from jumping in to help. 

The flames destroyed one apartment and crept up toward others and dozens of people evacuated the building.

 "(I)ust heard my neighbor screaming fire, fire, fire," said resident Andrea Doerner.

 Doerner grabbed her grandchildren and ran.

Thomas Cole was coming home after breakfast when he discovered the fire."My buddy, who was driving, said 'Tom, there's an apartment on fire!' And I said 'That's my apartment,'" exclaimed Cole.

It was particularly terrifying because his brother, William, who has emphysema was inside the burning unit.

 "I'm sure he was probably lying on the couch with his oxygen on. But he got out OK. That's all I cared about," said Cole. 

His brother was treated for smoke inhalation.It may have been worse had it not been for neighbor, James Candelaria. "I just told him, ‘Hey, calm down, I think I can put this out,’" said Candelaria.  

Candelaria grabbed fire extinguishers and laundry hampers filled with water to fight the flames.

"I feel bad that if I had some more water to put it out I know I could have doused it out," he said looking at the burned building.

But the professionals urge residents not to risk their lives.Someone can be overcome with smoke in a matter of seconds. 

"Any help they did in delaying the growth of the fire helped confine it to that unit so that's great," said Lt. Tim Zimnisky of the Burien Fire Department.   

The cause is still being investigated.Detectives will see whether there was anything inside the home that may have contributed to the fire.