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23 residents of Elmwood apartments need housing after fire

Most of the residents who fled a two-alarm fire in a six-story, 112-unit Elmwood Avenue apartment building Tuesday morning were able to return to their residences by the end of the day, according to fire officials and the Red Cross.

But 23 residents on the second floor in the Brent Manor Apartments, where the blaze started in a studio apartment, needed temporary housing because of the estimated $500,000 in damage to the brick building on the 300 block of Elmwood, Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield Jr. said late Tuesday.

About half of those residents received housing vouchers from the Red Cross, and the others made arrangements to stay with family and friends, a Red Cross official said.

The occupant of the apartment where the fire started at 9:55 a.m. said his oxygen tank somehow caught fire, but Whitfield said city fire marshals are conducting an investigation to determine if cigarette smoking might have played a role in the blaze.

“We have a statement from the guy saying he awoke and his oxygen tank was on fire. That is all going to be investigated. But he did smoke, and there are questions on whether he was inappropriately smoking in the room with oxygen,” the commissioner said.

The tenant’s name was not released, but he was one of two people taken to area hospitals for treatment of minor injuries.

Whitfield lauded a quick-thinking maintenance worker at Brent Manor for placing a ladder against the building and helping the tenant escape from his burning dwelling.

“The maintenance person threw a ladder up and got the man in the unit on fire out. He certainly did a great job intervening on the guy’s behalf, and we were very happy to have that help,” Whitfield said, adding that firefighters went through the other floors getting tenants out of the building, though not everyone was required to leave. “Some tenants were not affected by the fire. It was mostly those on the floors above and below the second floor.”

Red Cross communications coordinator Jay Bonafede said efforts were made throughout the day to make sure displaced residents would have accommodations. He credited Red Cross Disaster Action Team members Jose Latalladi and Nicole Roma with leading the effort to not only provide housing vouchers, but food and clothing.

Whitfield said an electrician was brought in to restore power to Brent Manor and that a cleaning company was “mitigating damage from smoke and water throughout the building.”

Brent Manor is at 366 Elmwood between Bryant and Summer streets. Of the 112 apartments, 110 are occupied, the commissioner said.