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The Journal Gazette

  • Photo by Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette

Thursday, February 08, 2018 9:57 am

Firefighters combat fire at Canterbury Green apartments

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Heidi Swann woke to the sound of people pounding on the door to her apartment.

A fire had started inside the walls of an adjoining apartment at the Canterbury Green complex on the city's northeast side, and her home was starting to fill with smoke.

"I just had a chance to get the cats and get out," said Swann, who has lived in the complex for three years. "My apartment was filled with smoke. It was pretty terrifying."

She was one of more than a dozen residents forced from their apartments in the 5200 block of Stonehedge Boulevard in freezing temperatures around 8 a.m. today. Firefighters said the blaze started in an area between walls that houses utility lines.

The fire spread to shared attic space, affecting 14 apartments. A portion of the third floor at 5209 Stonehedge Blvd. collapsed into the second floor, investigators said.

A cause has not been determined. No one was injured.

Paul Veldman, chief of operations for the Fort Wayne Fire Department, said firefighters spent more than an hour working to get the fire under control. Temperatures in the teens made fighting the fire difficult, he said.

Ice created from water from firefighters' hoses coated a parking lot where seven fire engines parked to battle the blaze.

"We slip and slide all over," Veldman said. "It's hard on the people. It's hard on the equipment."

At around the same time, firefighters also were working fires at homes on Lake Avenue and South Park Drive.

Thursday's fire was the second at the complex since August, when a blaze blamed on lightning damaged 11 apartments at 2718 Canterbury Blvd. Canterbury Green has seen at least four fires since 2007.

Veldman said the number of fires at Canterbury Green is not necessarily unusual because of the number of people and structures in the 2,200-unit complex.

Neither firefighters nor officials from GoldOller Real Estate, which owns the complex, were sure how many residents had to leave their homes.

At the complex's leasing office, sixteen people listened as complex officials, firefighters and American Red Cross representatives offered assistance.

Property Manager Nick Kreischer said all affected residents will be moved to other apartments.

"I'm not going to lose anybody," he said. "I do have enough space."

Jackie Belton, GoldOller regional manager, said residents who have to move will be allowed to stay in their new apartments. Work to move them was done Thursday, she said.

"Absolutely no one will be displaced," Belton said.

Linda Nertz made a quick escape with her two small dogs and little else Thursday morning. She said she expects to return to her apartment at 5205 Stonehedge Blvd., which is next door to the building where the fire started.

"My dogs were barking," Nertz said. "I opened the door, and I could see smoke. I got my dogs, my purse and keys."

Fire Department Deputy Chief Adam O'Connor said there were no injuries and each of the structures was left standing, facts he credited "to the professionalism" of firefighters.

"That's what we train for," he said. 

mleblanc@jg.net