Suspicious apartment fire under investigation

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Investigators are working to determine what sparked an early morning fire at an abandoned apartment complex in Phoenix.

It happened at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Quailtree Apartments at Seventh and Campbell avenues. The building is boarded up and fenced in, but neighbors say transients have been squatting there for quite some time.

The first crews on the scene encountered heavy fire on the second floor and in the attic. Video from the Phoenix Fire Department showed huge flames shooting into the air.

The call was immediately escalated to a first-alarm assignment, which means more firefighters were called out.

It took between 15 and 20 trucks and more than 60 firefighters to get a handle on the flames.

"The fire was so intense that we had to pull all of the firefighters out," Phoenix fire capt. Tony Mure said.

Crews took a defensive position, fighting the flames from the outside. Firefighters used aerial streams from a ladder truck in addition to streams from the engine companies to dump massive amounts of water on the flames.

"We're spraying at least 2,000 to 3,000 gallons a minute to help extinguish this fire," Mure said.

A portion of the roof reportedly collapsed during the fire fight.

Sixteen units in one building were damaged, but firefighters managed to keep the flames from spreading to other buildings in the complex.

No injuries were reported.

Calling the blaze suspicious in nature, investigators think it's possible that a homeless person might have lit a fire to stay warm.

Mure said it's not uncommon for homeless people to use vacant buildings like the Quailtree apartments for shelter, especially when it's cold at night.

"We've had numerous fires across the Valley," he said. "We don't know if that's this particular incident, but that's very common right now because of the cold weather."

A man who lives across the street from the apartment complex told 3TV it was only a matter of time before something like this happened and called the property owner a slum lord.