Cause of Milton fire under investigation as 150 residents seek shelter

Investigators on Wednesday were still probing the remains of a fire that displaced 150 senior residents of a Milton apartment complex Tuesday evening.

“We had a lot of elderly folks standing out in the cold in these frigid temperatures in nothing more than their pajamas or a light blanket,” said East Pierce Fire Chief Bud Backer Wednesday.

“Today is going to be assessing the damage and trying to figure out how we can bring them back,” said Stuart Brown, chief operating officer for Alder Ridge Senior Apartments at 2800 Alder St.

Residents of the 116 apartments include both single residents and couples. Some were placed in hotels and others were picked up by family members.

“We’re really grateful for our families that were able to come and pick up their loved ones and take them home with them,” Brown said.

Residents evacuated their apartments without injuries, Backer said.

“It’s pretty emotional,” Brown said. “Anytime you lose your house, your home, not be able to get to it, not know what’s happening, it’s pretty scary.”

Brown said a large part of the building was untouched by fire but the entire building has to be safe before any part can be occupied again.

Officials were determining the structural integrity of the building on Wednesday. Most of the fire damage occurred in the attic. Water and smoke damage affected many of the apartments.

Over 50 fire companies and 110 firefighters responded to the fire, Backer said.

“We probably touched every fire department in Pierce County with the exception of three or four of them on the far outreaches,” Backer said. “We had quite the scene here.”

Several fire units had just returned from fighting the blockwide fire that destroyed the Heritage Building in downtown Auburn on Tuesday.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor