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200 senior citizens rescued from apartment fire

Firefighters on ladders helped 200 senior citizens escape from a fire at a Michigan apartment complex  Wednesday morning, and some suffered smoke inhalation and chest pains.
Image: Michigan fire
Firefighters create vents on the roof of the building as they worked to extinguish the blaze on Wednesday.MSNBC
/ Source: The Associated Press

Firefighters carried senior citizens out of a fire at a three-story independent-living complex Wednesday, and officials said all 200 residents made it to safety.

As they stepped down ladders, rescuers cradled people in their arms as smoke spewed from the Lillian & Samuel Hechtman Jewish Apartments in West Bloomfield Township, about 20 miles northwest of Detroit. Other residents waited on balconies for help.

"My apartment was filled with smoke," said third-floor resident Evelyn Drootman, 80. "I finally opened the door to the porch (balcony) to let in fresh air. Then a fireman came. He carried me down the steps and put me in a wheelchair."

Drootman, who plans to stay with her daughter for now, said she inhaled some smoke but felt fine.

Police and fire officials at the scene said a few residents suffering from smoke inhalation and chest pains were taken the hospital but added that none suffered life-threatening injuries.

Assistant Fire Chief Ray Riggs said the fire is believed to have started in a third-floor boiler room. He said one section of the building was extensively damaged.

Firefighters were walking on the roof, creating vents as they worked to extinguish the blaze Wednesday afternoon.

The complex is part of the nonprofit Jewish Apartments and Services, whose Web site said it serves about 900 elderly residents and their families.

Marsha Goldsmith Kamin, the group's executive director, said the residents do not require around-the-clock assistance, and two-thirds drive their own cars.

Kamin said the residents of the independent-living complex have been taken to another apartment building on the 150-acre campus of agencies affiliated with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

"We just followed our standard operating procedure," she said. "It's been incredibly well-organized."

Kamin said her organization already has set up places for residents to sleep on the campus.

Sanford Vieder, medical director of the nearby Botsford Hospital, said the biggest concern is determining which residents need what medications, since there was no time to get them during the evacuation.