Even as residents were still emerging from the Windermere apartments after a fire the morning of Nov. 17, so were stories of heroism. Among the first residents to discover the fire was Jayne Cole, …
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Nov. 17: One dead, 13 injured, dozens displaced as fire forces evacuation of Littleton apartment building for seniorsr
Nov. 18: Windermere fire: 'I can't believe this is happening again'
Nov. 19: Windermere fire ruled accidental, residents still waiting for news
Nov. 20: Seniors likely won't be able to return to Windermere apartment building hit by fire until at least next week
Nov. 26: Fire in 2016 saw tower's residents evicted
Nov. 27: Heroes emerge from smoke
Nov. 27: Windermere residents, evacuated after fire, to spend another week waiting
Nov. 28: County officials preparing to help seniors displaced by fire
Even as residents were still emerging from the Windermere apartments after a fire the morning of Nov. 17, so were stories of heroism.
Among the first residents to discover the fire was Jayne Cole, 69, who went for her daily morning walk shortly after 5 a.m.
Cole, who lives on the third floor, said she smelled smoke as soon as she stepped on the elevator.
“When I got off on the first floor, the smoke was already rolling against the ceiling,” said Cole, 69. “The alarms weren’t going off yet. I started banging on doors, and yelling ‘Fire! Fire!’ I went looking for a pull-down alarm, but I couldn’t find one. I yelled for people to call 911. The smoke started getting so thick I had trouble breathing.”
Cole said she ran outside to get fresh air, then ran back in to pound on more doors.
“I was praying, ‘Jesus, protect us.’ Finally the alarms started sounding,” Cole said.
Several neighbors called Cole a hero.
“I’m not a hero,” Cole said. “Jesus is the hero.”
The first emergency personnel on scene were Littleton police officers: Sgt. Sean Carlson and officers Andy Barnard, Horacio Borrego, Cesar Correa, Paul Martin and Steven Pike.
Several residents recalled the team of officers circling the exterior of the building’s first floor, hopping over balcony railings and pounding on doors to alert sleeping occupants.
“By the time we arrived, the smoke was so thick in the lobby that we couldn’t even enter,” Barnard said. “All we could do was go around the outside and wake as many people as we could.”
The unit that caught fire was so thoroughly engulfed in flames that officers were unable to enter, Barnard said.
The team gained entry to the building through first-floor apartment balcony doors. Officers had to break into some apartments where panicked residents refused to flee, Barnard said, and physically carry them out.
In an apartment just above the burning unit, Wendy Wagner, 63, was trapped on her exterior balcony with smoke billowing from behind her.
Barnard coaxed her to leap into his arms, he said.
The six officers were taken to Littleton Adventist Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation, and Barnard was treated for arm injuries he sustained by catching Wagner. All were released the same day.
“Everyone in our team had each other’s backs,” Barnard said. “That’s what gave us the courage to keep going back into that burning building.”
Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman applauded emergency personnel.
“I am grateful that the first responders who risked their lives to save others in such heroic ways are going to be OK and that so many lives were saved by their efforts,” Brinkman said in a statement. “We will stay vigilant in our efforts to support those injured and displaced. Littleton is a community of love and caring and all are our family.”
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