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Fire Kills Two, Destroys Apartment Complex



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Two are dead Tuesday night after a fire destroyed an apartment in Central Sioux Falls. Around nine o’clock Tuesday morning, officials said they were called to an apartment complex on the 200 block of South Williams Avenue.

Officials said when crews arrived at the scene there was heavy smoke and flames coming out of the front window of an apartment unit on the eastside of the building. The building is a four to five unit complex that officials said did not have a sprinkler system. Crews worked for about an hour to contain the fire to just the one apartment unit. Officials said once the fire was contained they began the search for the two missing people.

“On arrival we were looking for two unaccounted for people,” said Division Chief Jeff Helm, Sioux Falls Fire Rescue. “We've recovered those bodies. There were three children that were already out of the structure. And they are at the hospital now for smoke inhalation. At this time we believe there were five people in the house at the time.”

The condition of the three children isn’t known. Officials said all the children were under the age of five.
Officials said they believe the adult died while trying to save the one child who hadn’t escaped.

Officials worked hard to try and contain to the one unit, but others did get damaged. And Tuesday night the complex sits vacant and neighbors are left homeless.

“I was sleeping and I heard a noise and I smelt the smoke,” said Santigo Quinones, a resident of the complex.

Quinones has lived in this now destroyed apartment complex for two years. He said Tuesday morning, he got a wakeup call he probably won’t ever forget.

“I heard a noise again like 'help, help' and they came out through that door, and then I saw the fire,” said Quinones.

Quinones said he ran out of his apartment to try and help. Then he dialed 911. But like fire crews, he quickly learned the intense flames and smoke left them unable to reach the two still stuck inside the burning home.
     
“There's that sadness that goes from the hope that you will rescue someone that you then have to realize that now you have to recover somebody,” said Division Chief Jeff Helm, Sioux Falls Fire Rescue. “So you have those emotions you go through, but you still have a job to do, and you have to find those individuals for the families.”

Helm said a fire like Tuesday’s leaves crews with heavy hearts. Not only did they have to battle a blaze that has left people homeless, they couldn’t save two innocent lives.
     
“We realize that in our profession that we will encounter that, but you still have that emotional toll and we pray that that won’t occur. But we try to prepare for it as best as you can and just work through those emotions,” said Helm.

As for Quinones, heavy smoke damage and water has destroyed the place he calls home.

“There is water on the floor, and big holes in the ceiling,” explained Quinones.

And even though he is shaken and sad about no longer having a place of his own, he is thankful his family’s life was spared, and grieves for his neighbors.

Quinones and the rest of the tenants will be living in motels for the time being.

There fire is still under investigation, however officials said they believe the fire was started somewhere in the front part of the lower level of the victim’s unit.      

The identities of the victims have not yet been released until family members have been notified.
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