Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
When a devastating fire tore through a Northeast Heights apartment building early Tuesday, 30 residents were able to escape.
But one young resident – a 10-year-old boy – didn’t make it out. He was found dead in his family’s second-floor apartment several hours later.
“There is a young child that did indeed die because of this fire,” said Lt. Tom Ruiz, a spokesman for Albuquerque Fire Rescue.
Ruiz said the boy’s siblings, ages 2 and 13, were taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital and remained in critical condition. Ruiz did not identify the boy or his siblings. He said the child’s mother had been in the apartment as well.
Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department, said officers were sent to the blaze at the Sierra Meadows apartment complex on Eubank NE, south of Montgomery NE, because a woman had been heard saying “please don’t hurt me” as the fire was reported.
“It is unknown at this time who this statement came from or how it originated,” Gallegos wrote in an email.
He said AFR’s arson unit is investigating how the fire started and the outcome of its investigation will determine how APD proceeds.
The fire broke out shortly after 2 a.m. and when firefighters arrived at the apartment complex they found one of the buildings consumed by flames and heavy smoke.
Due to the size and complexity of the fire, a second crew was dispatched, and 70 firefighters battled the blaze for 45 minutes before they brought it under control, Ruiz said.
He said several residents were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and three people were taken to a hospital, including the boy’s two siblings. Six apartments were damaged.
Hannah Makvandi, who jumped from a window of her second-story apartment, was also hospitalized with a sprained ankle. She said she lost all of her belongings, her three cats and her betta fish.
Makvandi, who was still wearing her pajamas, said she lived on the other side of a small landing from the unit where the fire is believed to have started.
She said she had just moved into the three-bedroom apartment less than a month ago and did not know the family whose child died.
Makvandi said that around 2 a.m. her alarm went off to wake her for her job at a call center. Then, she said, one of her cats started making a lot of noise and she heard a persistent beeping.
“I went out to check,” Makvandi said. “… My whole front was on fire, there was no way of getting out the front door.”
She said she turned around and ran to her window to jump, tossing her phone to her neighbors who were already outside.
“I turned around and jumped,” Makvandi said. “Some gentleman dragged me out the gate and put me on the blacktop by the basketball court.”
She said rescue personnel came and put her on a gurney to take her to the hospital.
Makvandi said that she lives with her two children but that they stayed at her ex-husband’s house Monday night.
“I’m just thankful my kids weren’t home and I didn’t have to throw a 6- or a 9-year-old out the window,” Makvandi said.
Fire department personnel remained on scene for much of the day, moving in and around the charred remnants of the building.
The New Mexico Chapter of the American Red Cross assisted the residents – half of whom are children – who were displaced by the fire.
Doug Keaty, a volunteer Red Cross Disaster Team captain, said the Red Cross is making sure everyone has shelter, food, clothing and compassion and comfort kits and that the children have stuffed animals.
“We are working with the apartment management about placement in vacant units on the property,” Keaty said.