Mulch Bed To Blame For Norman Apartment Blaze

Friday, August 5th 2011, 9:03 pm
By: News 9

Gan Matthews, News 9

UPDATE: NORMAN, Oklahoma – Norman Fire Department has determined where the massive apartment fire was started. The Commons On Oak Tree went up last week and now the Fire Department says the fire started in a mulch bed next to building B.

Several University of Oklahoma students have found—and others were looking for—new housing Friday night.

A fire at the Commons on Oak Tree apartments Friday afternoon left them homeless.

The fire is out, but the question of cause remains unanswered.

It was an afternoon of billowing black smoke that was punctuated by exploding cars.  Just about everybody on scene had a story to tell.

"Well, I was watching TV, and all of a sudden my apartment just started smoking, and I heard people shouting, and the alarm started going just Beep! Beep! Beep!  I came outside to check and I saw flames," Imam Udom, an OU student said.

"I got up to the third floor.  I couldn't see very well, and I knocked one of the doors down and got some people out of there," said Heath Villarreal, the complexes maintenance manager.

"I saw the maintenance guy come running up and knocking on all the doors, telling everybody to get out, yelling ‘Fire!'  And, usually, you think it's going to be a small fire," said Blake Baublits, an OU student.

The fire consumed sixteen units, damaged others, and left firefighters from Norman, Moore, and Oklahoma City exhausted.

"Typically in the afternoon at this time you don't have a fire get that far advanced.  Usually somebody sees smoke earlier on," said Jim Bailey, the Norman deputy fire chief.

Blake Baublits was at least able to get his dog, Brooklyn, out alive.

Imam Udom was less fortunate.  "I lost my phone, my two laptops, my passport, my I-20, my clothes—everything.  This is the only thing I have left on me."

No one, though, was injured.

OU will provide students left homeless by the fire with lodging if they call (405) 325-2511. They'll get a room at Walker Tower, plus breakfast, all weekend.

All other residents affected by the fire and needing help can call the Red Cross at (405)321-0591.