Six people in apartments above the Green Hanger dry cleaners at 146 Woodford Ave. in Missoula escaped serious injury when an early morning fire Friday sent them fleeing into the street, one of the residents said.
“Someone screamed ‘Fire!’ ” at about 4:30 a.m., said Helen Keremedjiev. “I took it seriously. We live in a quiet, safe neighborhood and we never hear such things.”
She looked out the window and saw flames licking from the second-floor deck along the southeast corner of the building, she said. “My first reaction was, ‘I’m going to change the channel. This isn’t happening,’ But then I thought, ‘This is for real. I can’t put it on pause.’ ”
Keremedjiev, 30, said she barely had time to fling a sweater over her pajamas and put on her clogs before running down the exterior stairwell with five of the building’s other tenants, also in their nightclothes. That stairwell is near the apartment most heavily damaged by the fire.
“I could feel the heat above me, and ashes falling around me,” she said.
Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Brandt said city firefighters, dispatched at 4:28 a.m., found significant fire and smoke when they arrived. The fire appears to have started in an exterior electrical fixture, said Fire Chief Jason Diehl.
Firefighters initially were told two people were unaccounted for, and searched the apartments without finding anyone.
Keremedjiev said six of the building’s seven residents escaped safely, and the seventh – who was not at home when the fire broke out – was later accounted for. The fire was confirmed out at 5:13 a.m.
Green Hanger owner Dave Dillon said damage to the dry cleaners and laundry was largely confined to smoke and water damage. Green Hanger employees were busy getting the smoke odor out of clothing Friday morning before shuttling garments to the business’ other location on East Broadway near Van Buren. Customers can pick up their items there, Dillon said.
The Woodford Street business will likely reopen early next week.
Damage is estimated at more than $100,000. Keremedjiev said her own apartment is mostly fine, but at least one apartment was gutted.
“Everyone’s safe. That’s the important thing,” she said.
Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, email@example.com or @CopsAndCourts on Twitter.