OLMSTED FALLS — Luis Castro said he was spending a quiet morning with his wife, Ada, and their 2-year-old granddaughter when he discovered a fire erupting in his residence at Chandlers Lane Condominiums.
“I didn’t smell anything, the alarms just went off and I took the granddaughter and the wife downstairs and told them to wait by the door and went to the main entrance,” he said. “Someone said the building’s on fire, so I came back, told them to get out, we jumped in the car, I got out, told them to stay and I watched my house go up in flames.”
The second-floor resident could see the intense fire and billowing smoke coming from the third floor and roof of the building. Castro only had time to leave with the clothes on his back and his cell phone, which he used to record the fire.
In a 4 p.m. news conference at City Hall, Olmsted Falls Mayor James Patrick Graven gave the details of the incident, which was first called in at 10:32 a.m. as a fire at 23002 Chandlers Lane.
At 10:39 a.m., officers arrived at the condominium complex to find heavy fire coming from the third floor and firefighters were called immediately. The building, a three-story, wood-frame structure, held 48 units, with 16 on each floor.
Multiple searches by firefighters deemed the structure clear of people, but a few did suffer injuries, he said. A female resident was transported a hospital from the site of the fire, as well as two firefighters to University Hospital St. John Medical Center in Westlake with minor injuries. Their conditions were not known.
At 11:21 a.m., firefighters were ordered to evacuate the building for safety reasons. Olmsted Falls Fire Department received mutual aid from multiple departments from Lorain, Cuyahoga and Medina counties. Those included Olmsted Township, North Olmsted, Brook Park, Brooklyn, North Ridgeville, Rocky River, West Lake, Fairview, Strongsville, Berea, Cleveland Airport, Brunswick and several others. Berea police also helped.
Graven, a retired Toledo firefighter, said the fire is under investigation but acknowledged that wood-structure fires always spread quickly.
“These fires travel very fast, and again, usually in the attics, there’s open areas that allows a fire to extend from one end of the building to another very quickly,” he said at the news conference. “In my 30 years experience of fighting fires, these kinds of fires always pose a lot of problems.”
He thanked the work of the fire departments and community support that came from all over.
“In my history I’ve never seen such an outpouring of support for one fire in my 30 years,” he said.
Businesses and residents provided food, water and clothing to those affected. Olmsted Falls City Hall opened the doors to the Jerkins Place Senior Center as a relief station to those displaced by the fire.
The American Red Cross, the Ohio Fire Marshal, the Olmsted Community Emergency Response Team, and Southwest General Health Center also helped people affected by the fire.
It’s unknown when residents may return to the building to salvage their belongings. Some residents escaped with their pets, but firefighters were not sure all animals were rescued.
For more information on donating to the families affected, call the Red Cross at (216) 431-3010.