Red Cross responds to Sage Tower Fire

2014-04-23T16:44:00Z 2014-05-05T14:47:05Z Red Cross responds to Sage Tower FireGazette Staff The Billings Gazette

Six residents of the Sage Tower Retirement Apartments were unable to return home after a second-floor apartment went up in flames early Wednesday morning, causing smoke and water damage to the floors on which they live.

Fire Chief Paul Dextras on Wednesday morning said he reached out to Red Cross about finding housing for the displaced victims. 

Michelle Kay, a member of the Red Cross disaster action team, said the call came in at about midnight. She said the team was at the scene by 12:30 a.m.

The team is required by Red Cross to respond to the scene of a disaster within two hours. 

But within an hour, she said, the team had all six residents settled in at the Vegas Hotel.

Kay said the victims of the fire will remain there for three days, after which they should be able to return home, she said.

The hotel was paid for by donations to Red Cross. 

In the meantime, she said that meals for the residents are being delivered to the hotel by Sage Tower employees. 

Kay said that the residents are adapting well, but that "this type of situation is a shock to anyone." 

Kay said the Yellowstone County disaster action team is the busiest in the state. It consists of seven counties and two reservations, she said. 

Because of this, she said, they are always looking for volunteers. 

In the aftermath of a disaster, "our goal is to make sure people are safe and have a roof over their head," Kay said. 

For those interested in volunteering, Kay recommended visiting www.redcross.org/montana. 

The blaze started in an occupied apartment, and sent one man to to St. Vincent Healthcare with burn injuries. He was later transported to a hospital in Salt Lake City for treatment, according to Assistant Fire Marshal Bill Tatum.

Two people were treated with oxygen at the scene, Fire Chief Paul Dextras said.

At first, flames could be seen roaring inside the apartment, but firefighters were able to get the situation under control quickly.

The building was evacuated as firefighters worked to ventilate the building.

Resident Tina Engelhart said she could smell smoke all the way on the 10th floor.

The alarm sent her scrambling to the fire escape, she said, adding that it was "a little scary." 

Dextras said the building houses about 80 people.

Police officers were sent to the top floors and firefighters to the bottom, where they worked towards the middle in order to get everyone to safety.

"It was a great effort by both public agencies, police and fire," Dextras said.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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