A devastating fire at a senior home that displaced 68 residents and injured two Dallas firefighters Thursday night is being blamed on a cigarette that wasn't fully extinguished, officials say.
Firefighters were called to a fire at Serenity at Dallas, an Elevation 55+ apartment community on Dilido Road just after 6:30 p.m. Thursday. When firefighters arrived, smoke could be seen coming out of the second floor of the three-story building.
"They just banged on the door and said get out now," resident David Bennett said. "Went out in the hallway and it was already so smokey you couldn't see."
The fire conditions continued to worsen, prompting Dallas Fire-Rescue to escalate the situation to a five-alarm call, meaning more than 120 firefighters had been called to assist.
While fighting the fire, two firefighters were injured and transported to a local hospital for injuries that were not life-threatening. Both are expected to be OK. One of the firefighters was sent home Thursday night while the other was released Friday morning after being observed overnight for burns to the upper extremities.
Investigators believe the fire was started by someone smoking on a second-floor balcony who then failed to properly extinguish the cigarette.
It's a careless act that caused a lot of loss.
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"I'm just devastated," resident Carol Ball said. "There are pictures in there. My cat was in there."
"All my medications are in there," Bennett said. "Which I really need badly. I just lost everything."
Despite losing everything residents still remain thankful.
"I'm just glad everybody got out safe," Bennett said. "That's the main thing. You can replace material things but you can't replace a life."
"This was a devastating fire, and the work to find hotels for the displaced residents is ongoing. But we are fortunate — this could have been much worse," Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson wrote in a tweet. "I am truly grateful for [Dallas Fire-Rescue's] work tonight. And I am wishing a speedy recovery to our injured firefighters."
A total of 68 residents were displaced by the fire, a fire spokesman said Friday morning. The American Red Cross worked with emergency management and the building owners to help residents find places to stay overnight Thursday.
About four dozen residents were taken to a temporary shelter at the Samuell-Grand Recreation Center at 6200 E. Grand Avenue until further living arrangements could be organized.
Other than the two injured firefighters, no one else was hurt, DFR said.
Yolanda Perkins told NBC 5 News she stepped in to help after seeing residents sitting on the sidewalk with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.
"I decided to go home and gather up all my blankets and all my hats and scarves and bring them out here to cover them up because it's windy and it's cool and they're just sitting out here like this and not knowing what's going on," Perkins said.
Photos: 2 Firefighters Hurt Battling Fire at Senior Living Facility in Far East Dallas
The facility "Serenity at Dallas' released a statement Friday in part saying:
"On Thursday evening, a large fire caused significant damage to Serenity at Dallas, an Elevation 55+ apartment community in East Dallas. Early indications are that the fire began with a resident smoking in violation of community guidelines on the outdoor balcony of a second-floor unit, and quickly spread to the first and third floors. Although the official cause has not yet been determined, there is no indication that an electrical fault or any building defect contributed to the fire, and we are glad to report that our fire alarm and suppression systems, including the sprinkler system, fully functioned as designed. We are awaiting the results of a thorough investigation by the authorities and will coordinate with them to officially determine the cause of the fire."
A damage estimate for the fire has not been released and it's not clear if any charges will be filed in connection with the fire.