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Senior Living Facility Fire In Downtown San Diego Displaces 55, Injures 1

San Diego Fire-Rescue crews at a two-alarm blaze at a senior living facility in downtown San Diego’s East Village, Feb. 20, 2015.
Tony Tull / Twitter
San Diego Fire-Rescue crews at a two-alarm blaze at a senior living facility in downtown San Diego’s East Village, Feb. 20, 2015.

A smoldering cigarette or cigar sparked a fire inside a four-story senior living facility in the East Village Friday that left one resident injured and 55 others displaced and caused more than $500,000 in damage, authorities said.

The two-alarm blaze at the 200-unit Potiker Family Senior Residence at 525 14th St. was reported shortly before 8:30 a.m. and was caused by smoking materials that ignited combustibles, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokesman Lee Swanson said.

Firefighters arrived to find smoke pouring from the window of a fourth- floor unit. The occupant was rescued and taken to UC San Diego Medical Center to be treated for smoke inhalation, Swanson said.

Swanson said the building's fourth-floor sprinkler system was triggered, but the position of furniture in the burning apartment prevented the sprinklers from extinguishing the fire. The sprinklers also caused extensive water damage on the second, third and fourth floors.

Firefighters knocked down the blaze in about 25 minutes, and it was confined to the one apartment, Swanson said. A body was later found inside the building, but San Diego police and fire officials said the death was unrelated to the fire and declined to elaborate. Firefighters helped around 20 people evacuate and rescued several others who were wheelchair-dependent or otherwise unable to get out on their own, Swanson said.

Most residents safely got out of the 12-year-old building on their own, and some were allowed to stay inside their units, according to Paul Downey, CEO for building owner Serving Seniors, a nonprofit organization.

Downey said 145 residents were later allowed to return home, but the fire left 55 residents in need of temporary housing. Service Seniors was providing food and water and arranging for medications for those residents, who were being taken to a hotel.

The American Red Cross opened a temporary evacuation point for the displaced seniors at Roosevelt Middle School, but it was closed after the residents were let back into the building.

The building sustained about $500,000 in smoke and water damage, and about $2,000 in losses to contents in the unit where the fire started.

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