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$1-Million Blaze Forces 100 to Flee Apartments


GARDEN GROVE — About 100 people rushed from the Oakwood Garden apartments late Friday night to escape a three-alarm fire that severely damaged the third floor of a wing of the sprawling complex, fire officials said.

Nobody was seriously injured in the fast-moving blaze, which began shortly before midnight in a 36-unit wing of the complex at 12112 Adrian St., a few blocks from the Crystal Cathedral. An unidentified man suffered a foot or ankle injury when he jumped from a third-floor balcony, said Battalion Chief Keith Osborn of the Garden Grove Fire Department.

He estimated that the wing sustained about $1 million in damage, with six of the 12 apartments on the third floor destroyed. Most of the other apartments had water and smoke damage, and 33 of the evacuees spent the night at a makeshift shelter in the complex's recreation center, Osborn said.

The Red Cross and apartment management were seeking new living quarters for displaced residents unable to move to vacant rooms elsewhere in the complex.

Firefighters said two cats were killed in the blaze and another was saved.

Witnesses said the fire touched off a mad rush from the smoke- and flame-filled building.

"It was wild," said Miguel Caporale, 18, who was asleep in a third-floor apartment he shares with his sister and her baby when the fire began. "All I could hear was this one man yelling and people yelling back at him. I ran outside and grabbed a hose and started spraying the building, but the fire was already too big."

Resident Laura Ronera, who lived on the second floor, said she was home after just having walked her dog when she heard people running down the hall and yelling "Fire!' and kicking the doors.

"At first I thought it was a joke," said Ronera, who has lived in the complex for four years. "Then I heard the alarm go off and I opened the door and there was smoke all over."

Ronera managed to run outside to safety with her 3-month-old puppy. By then, the flames had swept through the building, she said.

"It was amazing. It was just like 'Backdraft,' " Ronera said.

Other witnesses said that within a few minutes, flames and smoke had filled the third-story hallway and were pouring from the windows.

Osborn said it took firefighters about an hour to control the fire, and its cause remains under investigation.

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