Several apartments were damaged or destroyed, but fortunately no one was seriously hurt after a three-alarm fire Tuesday at a West Arlington apartment complex.
That’s due in large part to the brave actions of two Arlington police officers.
The Arlington Fire Department said a plastic container that was too close to a hot stove top is responsible for causing the massive fire that ripped through the Woodland Park Apartments.
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Officers Kristi Johnson and Billy Cruz were responding to a routine type call near the apartment complex when they noticed thick black smoke coming from one of the buildings there. They immediately went to check it out.
"Instinctively we took off and we tried to help," said Cruz.
After talking to some residents who had just got out of the building, they became worried multiple people were still inside. They began knocking on doors and even forced their way into a few apartments to make sure everyone could get out.
"I knocked on [one] door and didn't get an answer," said Cruz. "At that time, I kicked the door in. It
was just black. I couldn't see anything. There was that much smoke. I started to make my way in there, and about two to three feet inside the apartment, I noticed a little girl."
That was Marci Savill's apartment. She and her two kids were asleep when the fire started.
"If [Officer Cruz] wouldn't have beat on the door that hard, it probably wouldn't have woke us up," said Savill.
Cruz found all three of them and helped guide them to safety.
"My children are alive today because of you," Savill told Cruz Wednesday, when she stopped by the police station to visit him. "And I thank you very much."
In the meantime, a woman running back toward her apartment caught Johnson's attention. She told Johnson her twin babies were inside.
"I grabbed one of them, then handed her the baby," said Johnson. "She said, 'My other twin is in the room.' So I went to the room and got the other baby and I instantly started running across the street once I got them out."
Cruz and Johnson cleared about five apartments by the time firefighters arrived. The officers were later taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation, but are both doing OK.
"It's anything I hope somebody would do for my family," said Johnson.
They said they just happened to be in the right place at the right time and did what any other officer would have done in that situation. They also stressed that lots of other people made a difference that day.
"Sure, we're sitting here in front of these cameras," said Cruz. "But you know, really everybody did a heck of a job."
Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson also praised the officers' efforts. In a special message on his department's Facebook page, Crowson wrote:
"The two Arlington Police Officers at the Valleywood apartment fire yesterday are to be commended for their heroic actions. Their commitment to the citizens is very much appreciated by the Arlington Fire Department."