HELENA – Fire officials say residents of an apartment complex on the 1500 block of Lyndale Avenue in Helena helped save the lives of those inside after a fire destroyed the building on Sunday.
According to the Helena Fire Department, just before 2 a.m. residents inside the building were altered to a fire after they smelled smoke.
Those residents went through the apartment complex alerting their neighbors to evacuate.
There were smoke detectors in the building, but residents reported that they did not hear them initially.
Fire Marshal Lou Antonick said he hopes those citizens that alerted their neighbors understand that they helped save lives.
“Based on where they were located in the building and what they did, you know, they played a critical role and if they hadn’t, it could have been a game changer,” said Antonick, “So we’re very fortunate.”
Antonick stresses the importance of making sure people have an evacuation plan in place and checking smoke detectors regularly.
“Make sure you have one in every sleeping area, one adjacent to every sleeping area in every level of the home,” said Antonick. “And keep your doors closed. You know we stress that and stress that, I can’t say that enough how important that is. It will really make a big difference in a fire inside of a structure.”
Thirteen residents were displaced by the two-story structure fire. Two pets, a dog and cat, were lost.
Helena, West Valley, Lewis & Clark County and Montana City Fire responded to the fire and crews spent over four hours fighting the blaze.
Helena Fire Assistant Chief Ken Wood said the mutual aid was greatly appreciated and crucial to fighting the fire.
“We have an amazing fire department here in the city with great guys, but we’re limited in what we can do initially,” said Wood. “We don’t have the staff to take every piece of equipment on the initial call.”
Officials estimate the damage to be around $375,000, and the building has been condemned.
The American Red Cross is currently assisting those displaced by the fire.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Story by John Riley, MTN News