Hundreds Evacuated by Texas High-Rise Fire, One Hurt

March 24--One person suffered smoke inhalation and was transported to a hospital after a fire at the Westchester Plaza high-rise apartments Sunday morning, Fort Worth fire officials said.

The fire ignited on the fourth floor of the 11-story building shortly after 6:30 a.m., and was contained by the automatic sprinkler system to a public area where it started, according to the fire department. Smoke permeated the assisted living center at 554 S. Summit Ave.

Fort Worth fire units arrived within minutes of the alarm and firefighters evacuated everybody on the fourth floor and the one above it. They were moved to the lobby and kept out of the cold, said Lt. Carol Jones of the Fort Worth Fire Department. Temperatures reached the upper-30s early this morning, with wind chills still around freezing at 9 a.m.

In all, about 200 people were either evacuated or chose to leave their apartments, Jones said.

One resident suffered minor smoke inhalation and was transported by MedStar to a local hospital, Battalion Chief Richard Harrison said in a news release.

"Today's greatest challenge was to safely evacuate occupants out of harm's way while not exposing them to this morning's bitter weather," Harrison said in the release.

The Red Cross was assisting with water and blankets.

The fire was under control by 7:24 a.m. Sunday, Jones said. The cause is still being investigated.

The blaze was in a public area of the fourth floor where chairs and tables are in place for residents, said an official with the management company of the center.

"The staff performed flawlessly," said Jeff Bryant, president of Phoenix Heath Resources, which is the management company of Westchester Plaza. "The evacuation was done in a peaceful and orderly manner."

By 10 a.m. Sunday, residents had already returned to their apartments, Bryant said.

About 30 fire units were called to the scene because the fire was at a high-rise building and due to the need for evacuations, fire officials said.

Staff writer Domingo Ramirez Jr. contributed to this report.

Tom Uhler, 817-390-7832; Twitter, @tomuh

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