2 firefighters injured battling inferno at Orlando apartments

Orlando Fire Department rules fire accidental

By Daniel Dahm - Digital Manager

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two firefighters were injured Wednesday morning while battling a large fire at an Orlando apartment complex, officials said. 

The fire, which broke out at 2:21 a.m., damaged 14 units at the Twelve Oaks at Windermere near Conroy and Kirkman roads. 

"My husband just screaming at me, telling me to get up and get clothes on and come out. There's a fire," one resident said.

Orlando Fire District Chief Mike Stallings Jr. said the blaze engulfed all three floors of the building, but none of the 61 residents was injured. 

One firefighter, who has been with the department for 23 years, suffered burns and was taken to a hospital. Stallings said she was injured during a smoke explosion.

"There's a loud explosion that blew the ceiling down and blew insulation everywhere and a ball of fire came," Stallings said.

Fire officials said she suffered first- and second-degree burns to her hands and face. She's expected to be OK. 

Another firefighter, who has been with the department for five years, suffered a neck injury when debris fell from the building, Stallings said. He was taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center, but also is expected to be OK.                      

Fire officials said the debris almost landed on a fire engine.

"It missed the entire crew and part of it splintered off and hit this firefighter in the back of his head in the neck area," Stallings said.

The blaze was extinguished about 40 minutes after it started. 

Arson investigators determined the fire was accidental, but the cause is not known. 

Stallings said the apartment complex does not have sprinklers inside the buildings. He said it appears the complex was built before they were required.

"There was no law on the books then for new construction to have fire sprinklers. It is now state law that anything built over three stories must have sprinklers in it," he said.

Stallings said about half of the apartments and buildings in the immediate area do not have sprinklers because of when they were built. He adds there are hundreds of buildings across Orlando that don't have them installed.

"But just because an apartment [has sprinklers], doesn't mean that we don't have fires. We still have fires in buildings with sprinklers," Stallings said. 

He said the type of building helped fuel the flames.

"The basic construction of this building is really what makes a fire spread so quickly. Wood frame, it's an old building, lots of open voids," Stallings said.

Stallings also encouraged everyone to check the batteries on their smoke alarms this weekend with daylight saving time. He said families should also have an evacuation plan in place.

The investigation is ongoing, officials said.

The American Red Cross is assisting the victims. Officials said the apartment complex is also helping displaced residents find temporary housing.

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