A fire early Monday in Lakewood partially gutted an apartment building, and two men driving by rushed to help get everyone out.
The fire started just after 4 a.m. in an upstairs unit of the building in the 7500 block of Dean Avenue West and spread quickly.
Dwayne Robinson said he was driving by when he noticed the four-unit apartment building on fire. Staff Sgt. Marcus Taylor saw the same thing from across the street.
“We looked out the window and saw the apartment up in flames,” said Taylor, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier just back from Afghanistan. “So, I just rushed over here to make sure everybody was OK.”
Taylor and Robinson weren’t sure whether anyone was still in the second-floor apartment, so they ran around yelling that the building was on fire. Taylor then climbed up to a balcony, and Robinson threw a brick up to him. Taylor used the brick to break through a sliding glass door.
Taylor cut his leg when he kicked out the rest of the glass in the door. Inside, he found Liz Harper and her boyfriend.
Harper said that if not for Taylor and Robinson, they probably wouldn’t have made it out alive through the thick smoke and hot flames.
“He broke the window, and there were a lot of people down there helping,” Harper said. “So, to all of them, thank you so much.”
When firefighters arrived, they had to fight the fire defensively because of the intensity of the flames on one side of the building.
One resident was treated for minor smoke inhalation. Fifteen adults and four children were forced from their homes.
Investigators think the fire started on an upstairs balcony, perhaps from a cigarette, but the official cause has not been determined.
Damage was estimated at $400,000.