Fire investigators have ruled that careless smoking caused a fire that displaced almost two dozen people from their homes. It started Sunday night at a Springs apartment complex.
Investigators say smoking materials were disposed of in a potted plant on a third floor patio at the Retreat at Austin Bluffs. The fire spread to the building and to a 20 pound propane tank attached to a barbeque grill. The tank was not properly turned off so it accelerated the fire when it burned through the line from the tank to the grill. Two small two-and-a-half pound propane tanks also caught fire, one of them exploded.
The three-alarm fire started just after 10 Sunday night at the complex, which is located on 4615 Hinsdale Way near Austin Bluffs Parkway and Barnes Road.
Police received the first call about something going on at the apartment complex after people reported hearing the sound of gunshots in the area. When officers arrived, they found a building fully engulfed in flames. Police determined the gunshot-like sound people were hearing was likely the sound of windows exploding from pressure and the small propane tank that exploded.
Twenty people living in the building were evacuated to the complex clubhouse while crews battled the fire. Residents living in the two buildings adjacent to the one on fire were also evacuated for a couple of hours.
Authorities credit working smoke detectors for helping so many families get out of their homes quickly and safely. There were no injuries reported.
The Red Cross is assisting the 20 displaced residents. The two units on the third floor sustained substantial damage from the fire. The other 10 units have water damage.
The Colorado Springs Fire Department says you should always dispose of your smoking materials in a sturdy container that is far away from anything that could catch fire. Also, when you're done using your propane barbeque grill, turn off the knob on your propane tank.