Fire traps 3 in Peoria townhouse; victims critical

Posted: Updated:
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

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Three 19-year-olds are fighting for their lives after a fire trapped them in their Peoria townhouse late Sunday night.

Firefighters were called to the Country Meadows Townhomes in the neighborhood of 107th and Northern avenues at about 11:30 p.m.

The victims stayed on the phone with 911, telling dispatchers that they were holed up in a back bathroom and not able to escape.

That was essential information for first responders.

Fire crews said they encountered heavy smoke and flames as they fought to get to those victims as fast as possible.

"The guys going in through the door knew exactly where to go once they got in," Deputy Chief Rick Picard explained. "That saved a lot of time."

Firefighters said the victims did the right thing when they shut themselves in the bathroom and lined the edges of the door with wet towels to slow the progress of the smoke and flames.

"The victims, themselves, probably saved their own lives," Picard said.

The victims, two of whom needed CPR, according to the deputy chief, reportedly were not responsive when firefighters pulled them out. All three suffered smoke inhalation and remain in critical condition at local hospitals. No other information about them was immediately available.

Video from the scene showed the townhome with its roof caved in.

The fire badly damaged two townhouses.

"It was just like a bomb came out of the roof and started a big fire, " resident Bill Kane, a World War II veteran, told 3TV's Jill Galus. "The house is ruined. There's holes in the walls, the floors, the ceiling -- all over."

A total of eight units were affected.

The Red Cross was on the scene to help those who are displaced, including Kane, who said he has nothing left but a box of documents firefighters were able to retrieve from his gutted home.

At this point, investigators do not know what sparked the fire, but it initial indications are that it might have started on or near the back patio.

It's not clear if there were working smoke detectors in the townhouse.