Residents of the Hallmark House Apartments in Redwood City lined up outside the burned-out building Tuesday to wait for a chance to salvage what they could of their possessions.
The four-story, 72-unit building at 531 Woodside Road was the scene of a six-alarm fire that was reported shortly before 2. a.m. Sunday, according to the Redwood City Fire Department.
One person died in the blaze, and about 17 others were injured, including three firefighters, officials said.
Approximately 97 people were displaced, and dozens returned Tuesday morning with friends and relatives to carry out whatever was left of their belongings in garbage bags and storage bins. Residents were handed facemasks and gloves. They were given 10 minutes each to enter their former apartments, escorted by a fire official.
The brief time slot caused anxiety and frustration among the crowd lined up in the street outside the damaged building.
“Ten minutes — some people can’t even get up the stairs in 10 minutes,” said D. Joey Stone, a 10-year resident of the building who said he was in Modesto when it caught fire.
His girlfriend and dogs got out safely, and their apartment didn’t burn but sustained water damage, Stone said.
“Major water damage,” he said. “I don’t know what we’ll find.”
Stone said he wasn’t slotted to get into his apartment until later, but was there to help his neighbors carry out whatever they could grab.
“I’m here to help,” he said. “I’ll be here all day.”
The blaze remains under investigation by the Redwood City Police and Fire departments as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
A cause has yet to be determined, though witnesses said the fire appeared to start on the top floor, which sustained the heaviest damage. Collapsed ceilings and charred interiors were visible from the street. Other apartments appeared unscathed, with flowers and bikes still on the balconies.
Redwood City Fire Marshal Jim Palisi said Tuesday that it is too early to tell whether the apartment building is permanently uninhabitable.