Firefighters douse blaze at Milias Apartments, rescue 83-year-old resident

Engineer Randy Wong opens a fire hydrant to put out a single

Firefighters extinguished a first-floor apartment blaze at the
historic Milias Apartments building in downtown Gilroy Tuesday
evening, carrying an 83-year-old resident to safety in the
process.
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Today’s breaking news:
Firefighters extinguished a first-floor apartment blaze at the historic Milias Apartments building in downtown Gilroy Tuesday evening, carrying an 83-year-old resident to safety in the process.

Crews from the Gilroy Fire Department, CalFire and Rural/Metro ambulance service responded to the fire, located in a single-bedroom apartment on the alley side of the three-story building, which sits at the corner of Sixth Street and Monterey Road and houses the newly renovated Milias Restaurant.

Apartment residents were asked to evacuate, but restaurant patrons were allowed to stay because the restaurant portion of the structure has a fire-sprinkler system, according to Gilroy Fire Capt. Joshua Valverde.

The apartments are not legally required to have sprinklers because of the age of the building, Valverde said.

The building was built in 1922 and contains 47 studio apartments, according to the Milias Apartments website.

A man identified as 83-year-old Ruben Leon by friend and neighbor Wilford Tovar was reportedly carried by Gilroy firefighter Kris Teresi down a short flight of stairs to the alley behind the building and transported to Saint Louise Regional Hospital. Leon agreed to a hospital trip after refusing emergency workers’ requests for roughly an hour. Parts of Leon’s face and tongue were blackened from soot, and firefighters said he seemed disoriented and confused.

Gilroy firefighter Heinz Maibaum said the fire likely started in the man’s bed, which along with his nearby chair and television set were blackened and warped from flames and heavy smoke.

Firefighters were called to the blaze around 5:30 p.m., and the fire was extinguished around 6 p.m. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Maibaum said a man returning home from work noticed the smoke and dialed 911. Firefighters found Leon’s apartment door open and could hear him mumbling and moaning through the smoke, Maibaum said.

“This whole room was full of smoke,” Maibaum said, standing in the middle of the blackened living space.

Firefighters broke the apartment’s windows to ventilate and help cool the apartment, and Teresi carried Leon outside.

“Luckily he wasn’t fighting us,” Teresi said.

Teresi later added Leon was confused, saying, “I got it, I got it,” when he tried to help the man down the stairs.

Dozens of onlookers spilled onto Sixth Street and Monterey Road to watch the scene, and a portion of Sixth Street was blocked to traffic.

No other injuries were reported.

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