RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- A five-alarm fire forced dozens of seniors out of a 16-story high-rise apartment building in downtown Riverside early Thursday, and fire officials said it was thanks to a woman smoking while breathing through an oxygen tank.
Seventy-three firefighters responded shortly before 12:30 a.m. to Mount Rubidoux Manor, an apartment building for low-income seniors and people with disabilities, in the 3900 block of 10th Street, where fire crews found a unit on the 10 floor fully engulfed in flames.
Smoke filled up hallways and residents scrambled for air as they gathered what they could before they got out.
Two residents suffered minor injuries from smoke exposure, and more than 50 residents were displaced following the fire.
Those affected were given shelter at a senior center directly across the street from where the fire took place.
"We came out the door, I looked up and I see the flames shooting out. I turned to my neighbor and said, 'Well, this one's real,'" shared Linda Rush, who was one of the residents evacuated.
A frustrating aspect of the fire is the cause. Firefighters said an elderly resident was smoking while breathing through an oxygen tank.
"Smoking in bed. If I hadn't heard her that close to the door, no, she wouldn't have made it because...you couldn't take two steps out without getting lost," said Charles Taylor, a resident in the building.
Another factor firefighters had to contend with was that the building did not have sprinklers.