UPDATE Dec. 6: Cedar Rapids Police have identified the person who died as 71-year-old Wasifia Elshennawy. Three others suffered smoke and fire-related injuries in the Dec. 5 fire. Police noted that several residents unable to escape their apartments on the second and third floors due to smoke in the hallways were rescued through exterior windows by ladders placed by firefighters. Fire was located on the third floor. The cause of the fire remained under investigation.
UPDATE 5:35 p.m. Dec. 5: One person has died from injuries related to the apartment fire at Chalet South in Cedar Rapids, according to spokesman Mike Battien, who said the victim’s name would be released after next-of-kin are notified. Three other people were hospitalized and two cats also died, while two other cats were rescued, he said. Firefighters determined the cause to be accidental, but Battien did not know the source of the fire.
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Numerous rescue personnel responded to a report of a fire at a Cedar Rapids apartment building, where witnesses saw crews trying to resuscitate one person in the parking lot.
Mike Battien, public safety spokesman for the city of Cedar Rapids, said police and firefighters were called to Chalet South, 210 19th St. NE, about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023.
Battien said several people were being treated for smoke inhalation, but he did not know the exact number or the extent of injuries, as crews were still on the scene.
“When I arrived on-scene, they were already trying to bring people out of the windows, assuming the smoke load was too much to get into the halls,” he said.
Rescue personnel also could be seen carrying pets outside of the three-story building.
Battien said at least one vehicle from each of the city’s nine fire stations responded to the fire, along with crews from Hiawatha and Marion, and Cedar Rapids Animal Control.
Chris Cornell, whose grandfather lives in the complex, but was away at the time, said he saw smoke coming out of the top floor when he arrived and watched four people placed into ambulances, but one did not leave the scene.
Preston Sullivan, 21, who has lived in an upper-level apartment in the 24-unit building since June, said his father called him at work to tell him of the fire. He was not sure where he would stay, as the building appeared to sustain major damage.
His dad, Rob Sullivan, said he heard that four people were taken to the hospital and he saw CPR being performed on one person in the parking lot. That person’s condition was unknown.
Check back for updates and see more from the scene below: (photos © Cindy Hadish/Homegrown Iowan)