About 100 fire personnel from four Valley cities battled a major blaze at a Tempe apartment complex on Tuesday that left about 50 people homeless and a Tempe police sergeant needing to be treated for smoke inhalation.
The fire at Casa Di Grigio, 1855 E. Don Carlos, east of McClintock Drive and north of Apache Boulevard broke out on the third-story of the building about 1:30 p.m. and destroyed at least 12 units after someone believed to be working on a roof with a blow torch ignited the blaze, according to Mike Reichling, a Tempe fire spokesman.
Personnel from Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale and Phoenix fire departments were on the scene dousing the blaze after a roof on the building collapsed.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Tempe police Sgt. Dan Masters, who was first to respond to the scene to begin evacuations, was treated for smoke inhalation, and as many as 20 people received oxygen at a triage set up in front of the apartment complex, Reichling said.
Fire investigators said the number of damaged units could rise to as many as 30 once water and smoke damage is assessed. Tenants, who were evacuated to a building next to the one where the fire started, were told they would likely have to wait about six to eight hours before they could return to their apartments, depending on water or smoke damage.
"At this time, the fire appears to be accidental," Reichling said.
Casa Di Grigio is up to code, but is not equipped with a sprinkler system, Reichling said. The complex was built before sprinkler requirements were put in place 30 years ago, but a good evacuation plan was in place, Reichling said.
Reichling said all residents in the complex had been accounted for, but a resident who was evacuated from the building next to the one that was heavily damaged from the fire, said at least six pets were lost.
"It was scary," said Ezekiel Hodan, who has lived in the complex for more than a year. "I heard the fire broke out after someone began working on air conditioning units on the roof to get them ready for the summer. I'm not sure if my apartment was damaged or not."
A bus was transporting residents to nearby Thew Elementary School for shelter.
Marlisa Sodt, a resident at the complex who was evacuated from her apartment, said that she and her husband had been through two fires in five years, and that at everyone at the complex is tight-knit.
"We're all like a big family," she said.
Apartment management could not be reached for comment.