Beersheba Towers was evacuated Sunday night after the top three floors filled with smoke when a garbage chute caught fire.
One resident of the five-story building who had pre-existing lung issues was taken to River Park Hospital for treatment of breathing problems brought on by the smoke.
“It was a sad situation to see all those people on walkers and in wheelchairs getting rushed out of the building,” said Beersheba Towers resident Nora Bryant, who herself uses a wheelchair. “Then when we got outside, it was cold out there. A lot of us had on our night clothes and didn’t have time to grab a coat. Some of the policemen and firemen where giving up their coats so we could stay warm and they brought some blankets from the ambulances.”
According to fire department reports, the blaze began just before 5 p.m. in a dumpster which sits outside the high rise, which is a home for elderly residents. The building is located near the intersection of East Main and Colville Street within eyesight of the fire station.
While the fire was quickly subdued by McMinnville firemen, it was the smoke caused by the small blaze that caused problems. Specifically, fire investigators say the smoke was drawn into the building by its ventilation system and filled the third, fourth and fifth floors with smoke. The garbage chute affected by the fire is used by those floors as a convenient garbage disposal area.
Residents were taken across the street to sit in the community room at Spangler Towers before being allowed to return to their own community room. Firemen worked to clear the smoke for a couple of hours and occupants were allowed to return to their apartments.
The exact cause of the dumpster fire remains under investigation.