A couple climbed out a second-floor window Thursday morning when heavy smoke and rising flames blocked their escape through the hallway of a burning Garden Grove apartment building.
The fire, which killed six cats, broke out at about 3 a.m. in the 13300 block of El Prado Avenue in Garden Grove. Details about a cause were not immediately available, but the fire appeared to start in a lower-level unit.
Marco Hernandez and his wife, awakened by their smoke alarm, tried to get out of their second-floor apartment through the hallway, but turned back when they encountered thick smoke.
"We tried not to panic, and that's when I decided to let her out through the window," Hernandez said. "It's kind of scary. It's a long ways down. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to hold her. Thankfully, we're fine."
With help from residents on the ground, Hernandez held his wife's arm and lowered her to safety. Then it was his turn.
Dressed in his pajamas, Hernandez dangled for a few harrowing moments from the open window before free-falling to the ground. Neighbors ran to help him away from the smoke and flames.
In a statement, the Garden Grove Fire Department said the couple had time to escape because of the smoke alarm. Their bedroom door was closed, which slowed the spread of smoke, the statement continued.
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Hernandez was not seriously injured, but was saddened to learn that five of the family's six cats, including one of whom was pregnant, were killed.
"That kind of hurts us," said Hernandez. "My wife and I, we rescued those cats. We had given them all names already. We're sad, right now."
Six cats died in the fire. Two were rescued by firefighters.
Fifty-five firefighters knocked down the fire in about 30 minutes. Some residents used garden hoses to spray water on the fire. One man, wearing only underpants, picked up one of the fire department's high-pressure hoses and was thrown back by the force of the water.
No serious injuries were reported.
A preliminary investigation determined the fire may have started in a ground- floor apartment and spread upward.
It was unclear how many apartments were damaged. The Red Cross was called in to help any residents displaced by the flames.
"As I look at the apartment, the flames didn't get to our rooms -- probably just a little bit of smoke," Hernandez said. "So, I'm hoping everything is intact."