'Just happy I'm alive': Residents reflect after surviving fire at Milton senior apartments

KOMO Photo

MILTON, Wash. -- Investigators are trying to figure out what caused a massive fire at a senior living complex in Milton that displaced nearly 140 residents. According to East Pierce Fire and Rescue Chief Bud Backer, investigators are focusing on a chimney that was in the lobby of the building.

On Wednesday, residents returned to the Alder Ridge Senior Apartments to pick up some of their personal items, but they couldn't go inside the building. Instead, firefighters and property management had to retrieve the personal belongings for them.

“I’m just happy I'm alive. Everyone's OK," said resident Marcy Alden, who picked up medication.

It was around 6:30 on Tuesday evening when the fire was reported. Flames were shooting through the roof as residents, many who lived on fixed incomes, escaped to safety in the cold.

"I had just got home, got in my pajamas," said resident Laola Bowman.

According to property management, 60 percent of the apartments are "relatively unharmed.” Backer said at least four apartments were destroyed by fire and many were damaged by water.

"It sounds like the fire actually charred the trusses all the way to this end of the building in the attic space, so it's going to be a lot of work for them to get this building back in operation," said Chief Bud Backer.

At the Milton Activity Center, donations are now pouring in for the displaced residents.

The community pulls together when there's something like this that happens," said City of Milton Public Works Director Steve Peretti.

Some of the Alder Ridge residents are now staying at a hotel or other senior living complexes as they try to find new housing.

"It's a blessing that we got out- everybody got out," said Bowman. "Nobody got hurt. And that's a big blessing. It really is."

If you'd like to help any of the displaced residents of the Alder Ridge fire, an account has been set up at Columbia Bank. Donations will be accepted at any Columbia Bank branch.

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