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Residents React After Cigarette Butt Starts Apartment Fire

By Melissa Garcia

WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4) – Westminster residents who were evacuated from their apartments when a fire broke out early Sunday morning are back in their homes.

(credit: CBS)

Firefighters evacuated residents in all 12 units of a building at the Copperwood Apartment complex on Sheridan Boulevard near 82nd Avenue shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday. The unit where the fire started is uninhabitable.

Some surrounding units, however, had some minor water damage, neighbors said.

Westminster Apt Fire 1 (from Westminster Fire Dept)
(credit: Westminster Fire Dept.)

The blaze began on a top unit balcony and was caused by discarded cigarette butts, officials said.

Some residents expressed frustration that something so easily avoidable had put their families in danger and their homes at risk.

(credit: CBS)

"I was pretty sure we were about to lose everything," said Jessica Reece, who lives just below the burned unit.

She woke up to firefighters banging on her door.

"I opened the front door, and there was a fireman running up our stairs with hoses… (Firefighters) saved everything… so mad props to them," Reece said.

(credit: CBS)

Hours later, restoration crews worked to clean up the mess.

Brian Clark, a Fire Engineer at Westminster Fire Rescue Station 2, said the first fire crew arrived at the scene less than five minutes after the call to find smoke pouring from the building.

"Through quick tactics, they were able to get the fire under control within ten minutes," Clark told CBS4's Melissa Garcia.

(credit: CBS)

According to fire investigators, discarded cigarette butts on the patio ignited combustible deck materials, sparking fire in the siding.

"(The fire) was inside of the wall itself, from the exterior to the interior wall," Clark said. "It was able to move up through the void space, into the attic space over the unit."

Had crews been unable to knock the blaze out so quickly, it could have cost lives.

"It could have spread all the way through the combined attic space and just, literally, burned over people's heads while they were sleeping," Clark added.

Residents board up damage from fire. (credit: CBS)

"That's terrifying," said Jake Holmes, another resident at the apartment complex. "I have a five year old, and a wife, and a cat… this could have been bad."

He said that being a smoker is no excuse for irresponsible behavior.

"People need to pay attention to what they're doing. I am personally a smoker, and I don't flick my cigarettes. I make sure I put them out," Holmes said.

"You would think people would know better," Reece added. "So it's definitely upsetting to know that adults are acting like that."

Since the fire is considered accidental and investigators do not believe there to have been malicious intent, officials do not expect to file any charges.

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to


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