Fire Blamed On Careless Disposal Of Cigarette Butt

By: Roger Hamer, Jacki Ochoa Email
By: Roger Hamer, Jacki Ochoa Email

Investigators know what caused Thursday night's three-alarm fire that destroyed 35 units at an Omaha apartment complex. Many of those displaced need help.

Crews were called to the Maple View Apartments near 108th and Maple just before 7 p.m. Someone on a third-floor balcony was using a plastic flower pot as an ashtray and one of the butts wasn't completely out. That carelessness, coupled with high winds led to a massive fire that took more than an hour to get under control.

Two people were treated for minor injuries, including smoke inhalation.

Bernita Majerus lived two floors below where the fire started and has nothing left. "I'm by myself and I'm elderly and on a pension. Just have a little income and that's about it."

Firefighters were able to save her medications and friend Linda Larson offered what she could. She and Bernita have been friends since Bernita moved in last spring. Linda saw the fire, called 911, then tried calling Bernita before walking over to her neighbor’s place.

“I got halfway over and started yelling for Bernita. She started to come out and flames were dripping down. I said come on, get out of there before you get hurt."

At least for now, Bernita has a place to stay. Linda wants the rest of us to do what we can to help those who lost everything. “Check in on these people, see what you can do. A cup of soup, they literally have nothing. The ceilings fell down on the inside."

A man who broke through glass to pull the fire alarms told Channel 6 News they weren't working. The official investigation report indicates smoke detectors were working.

The Red Cross is helping victims relocate to other vacant apartments. Other complexes have also come forward with offers to help.

The fire is a reminder of the importance of smoke alarms. Starting Sunday, free alarms will be provided to those who don’t have one. The Omaha Fire Department is making them available though area fire stations. To get one, just stop by any of those locations between October 9th and October 15th. The offer is being made in conjunction with Fire Prevention Week.

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