BRIDGEPORT - Firefighters evacuated approximately 31 people from two neighboring apartment buildings that caught fire on Madison Ave. in Bridgeport Wednesday afternoon.
Officials are still working to determine the cause, but one of the residents said the fire started upstairs, on the third floor, in a back apartment, which is unoccupied and being remodeled.
Assistant Bridgeport Fire Chief Michael Caldaroni says at least one of the porches collapsed in back of the building where the fire started, at 135-141 Madison Ave. However, he says, firefighters had already been pulled from the building at that point.
The fire then spread to an identical neighboring building.
"I opened my back porch and smoke, fire and smoke and it just went whoosh. I just ran and started knocking on everybody’s door and called 911," said resident Sharon Ballard.
"The fire was wind driven," Caldaroni said. "And, you could see in the doorways the smoke got pushed right down to the first floor from the third floor. So, it was a difficult fire to flight initially."
One woman, home for the day with a sick child, said she was taking a nap when the fire broke out.
"I woke up startled and when I open the door this man’s like 'your house is on fire,'" said Chistina Pabon. "So, I just grabbed my son and the keys and I ran outside."
The landlord of both housing structures has responded quickly and with compassion. He has offered tenants available temporary housing. The affected residents have also received great support from the America Red Cross who are conducting case management and providing residents with additional resources at this time.
Mayor Joseph Ganim (D-Bridgeport) is asking anyone, who would like to provide assistance, to please donate gift cards that will be given to the families, who lost all of their possessions today. You can bring a gift card from Target, Walmart, or Visa/Mastercard/American Express card. Anyone wishing to donate may bring gift cards to the front desk of Margaret Morton Government Center, 999 Board Street, Bridgeport before Friday (2/15/2019) by 3:00pm. The city is not accepting used clothing or other items currently.