Cause under investigation in Parma Heights apartment fire that killed 1, displaced dozens

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PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio — Fire investigators are working to determine the cause of a fire that killed an elderly woman and forced more than 100 people from their apartments in Parma Heights.

At 10:30 p.m. Friday, a woman called 911, saying her 75-year old neighbor was trapped inside her burning unit on the fourth floor of the Camelot Apartments on Huffman Road.

DISPATCHER: “Is your neighbor still in there?”
CALLER: “Yes, the door is locked and everybody can’t get her out.”

“It blew out the front part of the building and the back part of the building,” said displaced resident Dario Gomez.

Parma Heights police said around the same time they received a medical alert alarm from the 75-year-old woman.

DISPATCHER: “Got a female in an apartment with a fire and nobody can get in.”
CALLER: “They just broke down the door…There’s smoke everywhere, we have to leave, I can’t see anything.”
DISPATCHER: “Nobody found her? OK, get out of the building.”

According to the call, one man tried, unsuccessfully, to save the 75-year-old woman, while the caller helped another woman in a wheelchair.

“C’mon ma’am this way, I’ll help you,” the caller said.

“I rushed my family out as fast as I could and got my mother out and my nine-year-old and we didn’t have nowhere else to go,” Gomez said.

“I live across the street and I heard, like a pop sound and then I heard all the ambulances and everything,” said Megan Simon.

Simon’s mother lives on the second floor in the back of the building.

“As soon as i pulled up here, there were just flames right above that apartment over there,” she said.

Because the fire was so intense, 70 apartment units were evacuated, which means more than 100 people were left without a place to stay.

The Red Cross set up at a middle school down the street to help displaced residents.

“It’s horrible, we had to go get some medicine…she’s had to go out get some clothes, she couldn’t even get there to get clothes,” said Simon.

Investigators say the fire started in the 75-year-old victim’s apartment, but so far they have not determined a cause.

Residents were allowed to retrieve some personal items earlier in the day on Saturday, but it is unclear when they can return to their apartments.

Firefighters from ten fire departments helped put out the fire.

Continuing coverage, here.

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