Fire forces apartment residents into bitterly cold weather

OKLAHOMA CITY – It was a brutally cold wake up call Tuesday morning for residents and firefighters when a building at a metro apartment complex went up in flames.

The call came in a little before 4:30 a.m. from the Ashley Park Townhomes near Southwest 74th and May.

With temperatures dipping below 10 degrees, it proved to be a rough morning for everyone involved.

The fire was in a laundry building – and no one was inside at the time.

However, as the flames grew – fire crews began knocking on nearby doors to alert residents.

"All I heard was somebody banging on the door and telling everybody to get out,” said resident Angel Zapata. "The first thing was to find out if it was my building so I could get all my kids ready and take them out of the house real quick."

Zapata and other residents gathered their loved ones and bundled up – not knowing how long the fire would force them from their homes as the flames grew.

"When our firefighters arrived, they had heavy fire coming from the second story of the building here,” said Battalion Chief Benny Fulkerson of the Oklahoma City Fire Department.

Fire crews went inside to battle the blaze but quickly realized they ‘d be better served taking a defensive stance – battling it from the outside.

The bitter cold making the fight tougher – firefighters had to call for third alarm as the flames grew – posing a threat to two buildings close by.

Residents were evacuated as a precaution – heading to their vehicles – or an EMBARK bus that was brought in to keep them and the firefighters warm.

All this as the freezing temperatures posed multiple threats.

"We always have to watch our slips, trips and falls. We create ice rinks out here with the amount of water that we use,” Fulkerson said. “It takes a job that's already dangerous and makes it even more so, when we complicate it with ice."

Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Fire officials said it appears the fire may have started on the second floor near a fire place.

Damage is estimated at $75,000 for the building and $50,000 for everything inside.