BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Continued issues regarding security and safety following an apartment fire will prevent many residents from returning home. In response to this, the owners of the complex have arranged for residents to stay in hotels. Previously, the Red Cross opened a temporary shelter, but a Red Cross spokeswoman said that shelter has been shut down on Wednesday night since the arrangements have been made for displaced tenants.
The Baton Rouge Fire Department responded to the call at the Savoy Plaza Apartments located on Wooddale Blvd at roughly 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 22. Firefighters had a particularly difficult challenge due to the structure of the complex.
"The building has a common stairwell and there were not a lot of places for the smoke to go," Curt Monte, Baton Rouge Fire Department, explained. "But it was a proud day for the Baton Rouge Fire Department because firefighters train for instances like this over hundreds of thousands of hours and it paid off with 13 lives saved."
One resident told WAFB 9 News the smoke was so thick it was like walking through a tunnel. Fortunately, no one was critically injured. One man, however, was transported to the hospital after jumping from a third floor window.
"They carried him out to the sidewalk," one witness explained. "He hurt his back when he jumped, but that was the only way he could've gotten out."
Once the smoke cleared and everyone was safe, firefighters learned the blaze was caused by a man who was cooking.
"He told investigators he was frying something on his electric stove about 30 minutes before the fire started," Monte said. "The Baton Rouge Fire Department would like to make everyone aware that unattended cooking is the number one cause of fires nationwide."
The apartment where the fire started is destroyed. The remaining units were damaged due to smoke or evacuation measures.
"We had to make forced entry into many units," Monte said. "At this point we have released responsibility to the building's owner."