Bellevue apartment fire on Christmas

The fire at Fontenelle Hills apartments in Bellevue began around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday on a third-story balcony. Flames spread to other floors and to the roof. One cat died in the blaze, but no residents or firefighters were seriously hurt. The apartment’s buildings, built in 1974, don’t have sprinklers or fire alarms, unless they’ve been rebuilt.

A tough Christmas morning fire at a Bellevue apartment complex displaced eight families and put firefighters to the test.

The fire was reported at 4:38 a.m. at the Fontenelle Hills apartments, and when Bellevue firefighters arrived, flames already were shooting out of the third-floor apartment and through the roof, said Jack Syphers, spokesman for the department.

Also on a third-floor balcony: a man in need of rescue.

The arriving battalion chief, with the assistance of Bellevue police officers, used a ladder to bring the man to safety, Syphers said.

Firefighters knocked back the fire and then went inside the building to search for any remaining pets and people. Firefighters had to withdraw, however, because the roof was threatening to collapse from the weight of the air conditioners and damage from the fire.

All firefighters got out safely, and none were injured, Syphers said.

Two residents reported smoke inhalation, but said they didn’t need to go to the hospital.

The Omaha Fire Department sent a crew to help with the fire, given the size and the threat it posed.

“There were 10 apartments in that building, and all are uninhabitable right now,” Syphers said.

The Red Cross is assisting those displaced families with temporary housing.

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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Phone: 402-444-1102.

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