Fire Forces Evacuation Of High Rise Apartment Complex

Saturday, April 7th 2007, 3:11 pm
By: News On 6

A fire forces the evacuation of a high rise apartment complex near downtown Tulsa. The fire started in an apartment near the top of Pioneer Plaza at 10 a.m. Saturday. Residents of the apartment complex say the fire department is there almost every week, usually responding to false alarms. But The News On 6’s Chris Wright reports Saturday’s fire turned out to be the real deal.

Smoke began billowing out of an apartment at Pioneer Plaza, a public housing complex, shortly after 10 Saturday morning.

Firefighters say the blaze presented a couple of problems for them, first of all it was on the 9th floor, and secondly, the complex is home to a number of elderly and disabled residents.

"We do have some people in this complex that are physically disabled, we were having a little bit of trouble getting those folks out of the 9th, 10th, 11th floors," said District Fire Chief Eddie Bell.

Some residents say at first they hesitated to evacuate.

"The fire alarm on my floor went off. I didn't really pay attention to it because we've had so many, many fire alarms," Pioneer Plaza resident Anita Nipper said.

"The fire alarms in the apartments are so sensitive, that if you burn toast, it sets them off, so the fire department does spend a lot of time coming up here," said resident Sandra Gunnells.

It wasn't until they actually saw smoke that they realized they may be in danger.

The Tulsa Fire Department believes the fire may have started on a sofa, then quickly engulfed the entire 9th floor apartment. Several other apartments have some smoke damage, but officials say it's nothing too serious.

Residents, who kept warm on a Tulsa Transit bus while waiting to be allowed back into their apartments, are thankful the fire department takes every call seriously.

"I just thank God that they do come up even on the times that I would say are crying wolf," Gunnells said.

Authorities got everyone out of the complex safely, but EMSA did treat 10 people for smoke inhalation, four were taken to hospitals for further treatment.

Residents we talked to would like to see an on-site security guard added to the complex. That way the guard could quickly determine which calls are real, and which are false alarms.