By Jeff Gallatin
An 18-year-old woman using a lighter to search for something under a bed started a fire on the 12th floor of the Victoria Plaza high-rise apartments Thursday night, damaging the building and prompting the evacuation of residents for several hours.
“She went to look for something and didn’t wait for a flashlight,” North Olmsted fire Chief Tom Klecan said Friday. “When she looked under the bed with the lighter, the mattress ignited, causing the fire. It was accidental, with just some questionable judgment.”
Klecan said the occupants of the apartment in the high-rise complex, located on Country Club Boulevard across from Westfield Great Northern Mall, found they couldn’t stop the fire, so the fire department was notified. All the residents got out safely.
“The only injury was one firefighter, (who) twisted his knee when he got it stuck underneath something,” Klecan said. “He was treated at the hospital and then let go.”
Firefighters got the initial call to the scene shortly after 10 p.m.
“The fire caused a lot of damage to the apartment itself, as well as smoke damage to apartments around it and one underneath it,” Klecan said. “The ones around it are going to smell of the fire for a little while as well.”
Because of the fire and smoke coming out of the bedroom, police and fire personnel evacuated residents in apartments around the one on fire. Fire could be seen shooting out the window to some onlookers outside the building. Police blocked off the building for more than two hours. After the fire was extinguished, safety forces began letting people back in after midnight.
“Everything went pretty smoothly in that regard,” police Chief Jamie Gallagher said. “People got out without problems, and all the fire departments at the scene are very professional in how they handle situations.”
Klecan noted that North Olmsted also has training scenarios for going into high-rise buildings.
“It definitely helped that we run those drills,” he said. “They got into the bedroom and were able to contain it without too many problems.”
In addition to North Olmsted, firefighters from Bay Village, Fairview Park, North Ridgeville, Olmsted Township, Rocky River and Westlake responded to the fire.