About 23 Meadowbrook Apartment residents safely evacuated their homes after a fire broke out early this morning, causing an estimated $100,000 damage to the west Lawrence complex.
Residents living in the building Windsor Square T evacuated about 1:15 a.m. today.
Gretchen Muir, who lived with her husband in the third-floor apartment where the fire originated, said the smell of smoke woke her shortly after 1 a.m.
"It (the apartment) was filled with smoke and an orange glow," Muir said.
About the same time she checked on the apartment, she could hear the alarm sounding and told her husband to get up. Muir said she ran into the hallway and started pounding on doors before going outside.
"I GRABBED my purse and my marriage certificate and ran," Muir said.
Lawrence Fire Chief Jim McSwain said the fire was started by a bag of fireplace ashes the Muirs placed on their balcony. The ashes ignited, burned part of the balcony and spread to the wall and attic area of the building.
By 2:51 a.m. firefighters had nearly extinguished the fire.
Firefighters had trouble extinguishing two fire patches on the south side of the roof, and had to climb on top of the structure, water hose in tow, to put out the blaze, said Lawrence Fire Marshal Rich Barr.
Barr said the fires on the south side of the building were tough to reach because the building's layout made it difficult for firefighters to locate and extinguish the blaze from inside the building.
"WE USUALLY don't put a fire out from the outside because it forces a fire back inside," he said.
Barr said that a good portion of the apartment where the fire originated had been damaged. In addition, Barr said it appeared that there was some smoke damage to the apartment east of the Muir's apartment and some water damage to a second-floor apartment.
Residents living in the west wing of the building were allowed to return to their apartments this morning, but people living in the east wing had not been able to return as of noon today because natural gas and water had been turned off, McSwain said.