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POMPANO BEACH (CBSMiami) – One man is dead after a fire broke out at a Pompano Beach high-rise early Tuesday.
Crews spent hours battling the raging fire after it started at around 1 a.m. on the 7th floor of the Intercoastal Towers, 1505 N Riverside Drive.
Residents grabbed what they could and got out but others could not. Many of them on the seventh floor had nowhere to go but their balconies for air until rescue crews arrived.
“The thick black smoke spread from apartment to apartment on the seventh floor,” said Pompano Beach PIO Sandra King.
An 80-year-old man died in the fire, trapped in his bathroom in his 7th-floor unit. His cause of death is still under investigation.
The fire that broke out in apartment 707 was so powerful dozens of crews from North Broward to Pembroke Pines were called in to help fight the fire and evacuate close to 100 residents.
CBS4’s Marybel Rodriguez spoke to the owner of the apartment where the fire started. She said she was in the shower and when she walked out, her entire apartment was engulfed in flames. She was able to make it out.
Other residents of the building described what happened.
“At first, there was an orange glow inside the room, then flames apparently looked like they were coming from a kitchen, living room area then over to the bedroom after a while,” said resident Jeff Dodd.
“Flames like pouring out of the window and smoke out of the hallway,” said resident Amber Webb. “On the fifth floor, there was even smoke there. It was scary”
“I was in bed asleep. It was around 1:15 a.m. The fire alarm goes off and a pre-recorded voice saying, ‘There is a fire reported. Evacuate the building do not use the elevator,” said resident David Booth.
Elizabeth Masucci is here from Boston.
“It was about 1am when the alarm started sounding for everyone to evacuate,” said Masucci.
She ran out in her pajamas, grabbing just a couple things along the way.
She wasn’t sure if it was a real disaster.
“When the alarm was going off I thought it was a false alarm,” Masucci said. “But anyway I grabbed my coat, which I had one down from Boston, and my pocket book and my keys and come down just to make sure.”
She was lucky to get out when she did.
Others were trapped on their balconies, hoping someone would see them.
“Many people, what they did was, they went out to their balconies to get fresh air and close the door to their apartment because of the smoke that was coming in,” said Sandra King with Pompano Beach Fire Rescue.
Seven residents were transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation six of them have been released.
It was a terrifying situation fire officials said could’ve been prevented if the building would have been up to code.
“In a building like this, if it was equipped with sprinklers, that system would have had the fire in check or put it out and not allowed it to advance the extent it did,” said Assistant Chief Michael Hohl with Pompano Beach Fire.
This is an older building that was built prior to the law requiring all buildings to have sprinklers. They were in the initial stages of retrofitting the building with sprinklers.
As for the residents, they are not being allowed back inside until inspections of the building are complete and they determine it is safe for them to go back inside. In the meantime, the Red Cross is assisting more than 50 residents who are now displaced.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.