Benito Suarez woke up early Monday to an explosion near the apartment he shared with his wife and 1-year-old son.
He and his wife sat up in bed, unaware that a roaring fire was engulfing the building, a two-story home on Clinton Avenue that had been converted into apartments.
“Then the lights went off,” Suarez, 23, said Monday afternoon.
When the couple opened their door, “smoke just blew into our faces; we couldn’t get see anything,” Suarez said in Spanish. “We grabbed my son and went out a window to a first-floor roof. From that roof, we worked our way down. I could see other people scrambling to get out.”
Fire officials said a neighbor who lived on the second floor didn’t make it and 10 residents were displaced. Firefighters found the body of the elderly man, who lived alone, after they had the fire under control. Authorities had not released his name.
No other injuries were reported in the blaze in the 1300 block of Clinton Avenue.
The call came in at about 3:30 a.m., and firefighters had the fire under control in about 30 minutes, officials said.
Suarez said the house did not have smoke detectors.
Arson investigators were on site most of Monday trying to determine the cause.
Suarez stood near the burned building Monday afternoon, wrapped in a small black blanket and wearing a T-shirt, shorts and one slipper in the bitter cold. Temperatures hit a low of 24 degrees Monday morning with wind chill bringing it down to 12-15 degrees.
He said he hadn’t been allowed to go back to his apartment, but he believed it was destroyed.
“We have only the clothes that we are wearing,” Suarez said. “I’m still pretty nervous and so is my wife. God was watching out for us this morning.”
The Red Cross was on the scene to help.
The elderly man’s death was the second fire fatality in the city in four days.
Early Friday, another elderly man and his dog were found dead in a house fire on Finley Street. Authorities had not released the name of the victim, but neighbors said Wayman Green, 72, had lived there.
Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763