Tenants Flee Fire In Carbondale

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CARBONDALE -- More than 30 people were forced out of an apartment building in Carbondale Friday morning when fire gutted a ground-level unit.

Those forced out of their homes included an 84-year-old woman who had to be rescued from her second-story window.

It happened around 8 a.m. Friday at the Summit Gardens apartments on Westgate Drive in Carbondale.

Tenants tell us smoke quickly filled up Building L of the apartment complex.

That smoke was too thick for Clara Martone, 84, to walk through, so she opened her second-story window and begged for help.

“I pushed out the screen and I kept calling, ‘get me out!  Get me out of here!’ and I have a bad back, and I had to curl up on the window sill. And then when I did they came up with a cherry picker and got me.”

The cherry picker wasn't the only key piece of equipment. Firefighters had to lay down a half mile of hose because a nearby fire hydrant and another a quarter mile away didn’t work.  Firefighters aren’t sure it the water froze, of if there is something wrong with the hydrants.

“I don’t know what the issue is.  We were prepared.  If the hydrant doesn’t work, we have other options,” said Carbondale Fire Chief Chris Pezak.

Chief Pezak says the fire-damaged building will be closed until further notice, because of smoke and water damage.

Brittany Ricca wonders how much smoke damage they'll deal with.

“I couldn’t breathe or even see the hallway, so I grabbed the comforter and ran out with my daughter,” she said.

“I have a lot to be thankful for,” said Martone.

Martone doesn't sound like a woman who breathed in smoke. But by the time crews put the fire out, an ambulance was simply refuge for this fire survivor to relax and stay warm.

“Oh, thank God!  This is the best thanksgiving I ever had in my life to be safe with my family.”

And she's thinking of Christmas, hoping water and smoke from the fire didn't damage the presents she bought for her grandchildren.