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SALT LAKE CITY — A small fire made a huge impact on the people who live at a downtown highrise for disabled adults. More than 150 people were forced to evacuate at a moment's notice, and several people have been displaced due to water damage in their apartments.
Most of the residents have special needs, which made evacuation a major challenge for those who live at the Multi-ethnic Senior Center near 100 South and 200 West. All 150 residents of the 15 floor apartment building were evacuated around 8 o'clock this morning when a grease fire started on the stove in Jack Leggroan's apartment.
"The wall set on fire. I couldn't get out,' Leggroan said.
The sprinkler in his apartment went off, controlling the fire until firefighters arrived and put it out. But by then, the alarm in the building alerted residents to the fire.
"All of the sudden the alarm goes off and I could smell smoke and I was really scared because we're not supposed to use the elevator," said resident Lee Bias.
Bias lives directly below the apartment on the 10th floor where the fire started. Water began filling her apartment, trapping her inside.
"The water was so deep I didn't dare go through it with my power chair, and so I called 911 and (said) that I couldn't get out of my apartment."
Firefighters broke down Bias' door and assisted her down nine stories. They made similar efforts for four other disabled adults in the building as well.
"As we help them we try to be as understanding and compassionate as possible, to let them know we're trying to remove them for their safety and make sure their needs are facilitated as well," said firefighter Brady George.
Officials said the fire was contained to one apartment on the 10th floor, but the water from the sprinkler made it all the way to the first floor. Crews are now trying to clean it up as much as possible so residents can return home.
"I just don't know what we're going to do," Bias said.
Firefighters said that because of the special needs of those living in this high rise, they go over what to do in this type of event several times a year. They said overall it went pretty well. The good news is, it was a small fire and no one was injured.