Apartment fire displaces 17 Gilroy residents

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An apartment fire displaced 17 Gilroy residents—including five children—early Tuesday morning, according to authorities.

Gilroy Fire Department received a call about 12:15am Jan. 7 reporting a structure fire at a small apartment complex on 8225 Kelton Drive. The smoke and flames awakened an adult resident when the fire started in his upstairs bedroom, Gilroy Fire Division Chief Jim Wyatt said.

The resident initially tried to extinguish the flames, but they continued to grow, Wyatt said. The resident then retreated to help his elderly parents exit the burning building. Other residents of the five-unit, two-story complex smelled the smoke and “started banging on doors” to help their neighbors evacuate.

“When we got there, everyone was outside their apartments,” Wyatt said. “The captain could see smoke and flames coming from the second-story window, and immediately called for a second alarm. Additional units were there pretty rapidly.”

Firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the upstairs bedroom of the apartment where the fire likely originated, Wyatt said. The flames did not spread to adjacent units or into the attic, but all five two-story units have been “red-tagged” by the fire department, declaring them uninhabitable.

The fire started in an apartment in the middle of the building, Wyatt explained. Only that unit suffered extensive structural damage—a “complete loss” of the upstairs space—that will require long-term repairs and closure.

For now, all five families that lived at the Kelton Drive complex are displaced due to the fire. These include 12 adults and five children, Wyatt said. No residents or firefighters were injured.

The American Red Cross responded to assist the displaced families with temporary accommodations and other daily needs. Residents of the undamaged units were able to enter the building to retrieve belongings after fire crews put out the flames.

Wyatt said the lack of civilian injuries is likely due to “the neighbors’ willingness to notify and help one another.”

Fire crews had the blaze fully controlled within about 2.5 hours of arriving, Wyatt said. Firefighters and equipment from the South Santa Clara County Fire District, Morgan Hill Fire and San Jose Fire joined the Gilroy crews in the response to the fire.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Wyatt said the resident who first noticed the fire in his upstairs bedroom told firefighters that he had been smoking earlier in the evening, and investigators think this may have been the cause of the structure fire.