CAROLINE, N.Y. — Dozens of people were ousted from their apartment building Friday night after a fire broke out on the first floor.

The fire was reported at about 9:25 p.m. at a 24-unit apartment complex that houses elderly residents, said Beth Harrington, President of the Slaterville Fire Department.

Residents were evacuated to the Caroline Town Hall, a few hundred feet from the apartment complex, and no injuries were reported.

Carla Gray, who has lived at the apartments for 13 or 14 years, said she was on the internet and her partner was watching TV when they heard their neighbor yelling for help.

The two looked out the living room window and could see sparks from a fire.When Gray opened her apartment door, she said the hallway was flooded with smoke.

“We grabbed coats and shoes,” she said, as they called 911. “I’m in my pajamas.”

Gray said she lives in Apartment 16, which is next to where the fire started in Apartment 8 on the northeast side of the building.

Harrington said most of the apartments are single-occupancy units and it’s likely that nobody would be immediately allowed back in the building due to smoke and water damage. The fire damage appeared to be contained to a few units, though the extent of damage is unknown at this time. It not immediately certain how the fire started.

Harrington said the blaze was put out within less than an hour and officials remained on scene afterward watching for hot spots.

Harrington, who lives about two houses down from the complex, said, “As soon as they toned us out, I just came running out the back.”

She said a group of residents were already standing outside of the building and gave her a rough list of the people still inside the building. There was not an official list of residents immediately available.

“I ran down the hall and shouted…and made them open up,” she said about getting people out.

The Slaterville Fire Department, which is located less than a block away, got to the scene within minutes.

But one elderly female resident somehow managed to sleep through the evacuation. A door-to-door evacuation wasn’t conducted and almost an hour later, still unaccounted for, firefighters found her sound asleep in her apartment.  She was evacuated from the building by first responders.

Harrington said there are always things firefighters can learn from and do better.

In this case, she said, “Nobody was hurt — no residents, no firefighters…If you have a fire, that’s a good fire.”

Fire departments from Brooktondale, Slaterville, Speedville and Varna responded to the scene, along Bangs Ambulance, the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department, the American Red Cross, and a rehab bus from the Ithaca Fire Department.

Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.