Fatal Fire Investigation in Albany

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ALBANY, Ore. — Investigators are looking for the cause of a fatal fire at an Albany apartment building Wednesday.

Fire crews responded to the scene at 6:41 a.m. at 417 6th Ave. SE.  It took firefighters less than 15 minutes to put out the flames.

One person was killed in the fire; everyone else in the building was able to escape safely.

“My granddaughter woke me up, telling me the house was on fire,” said neighbor Virginia Hilderbrand. “And I just jumped out of bed.”

Hilderbrand and her family went outside and saw the next door apartment building up in flames.

“I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like,” she said.

She brought out coffee and blankets for the occupants who made it out safely – feeling a sense of panic and helplessness – wanting to help, but only able to do so much.

“You want to do so much and yet you can’t.”

After hearing the cracking and popping of the building burning, Hilderbrand says she could smell more than just smoke.

“You could smell. You could smell…the smell. And that’s when I came into the house because I couldn’t deal with that.”

The Albany Fire Department says everyone but one person made it out safely.

“We don’t know how the fire started,” said Albany Fire spokesperson Wanda Omdahl. “We don’t know exactly what happened except that we had one fatality.”

The fire department is not releasing the man’s name yet until his family is notified. But neighbors are already mourning.

“I’ve seen him almost every day,” Hilderbrand said, who has lived in the same house for 14 years. “And he always talked to me and he’d always say hi. It’s going to be hard to not see him every day.”

Ondahl says there are 10 apartments in the building, but only eight were occupied. The other occupants are now without a place to live.

“I ask for prayers for all of them that are homeless now,” Hilderbrand said. “Homeless. What are they supposed to do now?”

Omdahl estimates there is $300,000 worth of damage. Even though everyone made it out safely, she says one occupant has a mild burn on his hand.

“We had seven people that were evacuated,” Omdahl said. “They’re currently down at Station 11 with the Red Cross getting some assistance because they’re not going to be able to move back into their apartments.”

The residents were not willing to speak with KEZI 9 News, but their neighbors say they are willing to do whatever they can to help.

“If they need anything, we are here to help them,” Hilderbrand said.

The fire department is still investigating the cause of the fire.

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