Apartment Fire on North Side of Des Moines Claims the Life of One Man

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  One man is dead after a fire broke out in the Highland Park Apartments in Des Moines on Tuesday.

Fire officials now deem the complex safe and all other residents have returned home, but a charred roof and debris remains at the scene. The window of the apartment that caught fire has since been boarded up.

Multiple crews worked to extinguish the flames inside the 50-unit complex, most of which are occupied by residents who are disabled.

A man who lived in the unit where the fire started has died, despite his wife's efforts to save him. The woman, who also lives in the unit, made it out alive.

Other residents, like Ron Grover, feared for their lives.

“I forgot to turn my oxygen off because I use oxygen at night, I was afraid it was going to blow," Grover said.

Luckily this didn't happen, and residents were able to move back to their homes within hours.

“I was afraid we were going to have to move out our something because it was really blazing," Grover said.

Fire officials say it's important to open a conversation about fire safety methods and what to do if a fire breaks out in your complex.

“Nobody called 911 to report the fire. Apartments, condos, or whatever, if you're staying in a hotel, if the alarm's going off and you know there's a fire, please activate the pull station at the end of the hallway. Please call 911 and report the smoke, because that gets people here a little quicker, we get more firefighters, more equipment, and a quicker way for us to extinguish the fire," said Brian O’Keefe with the Des Moines Fire Department.

Fire officials say part of what helped contain the fire was technology inside the complex.

"The fire doors, when they closed, isolated it. Because the apartment door was self-closing, it had a 10-minute rating, it kept that fire, even though it's hot and smoky coming out the window, it did not extend," O’Keefe said.

Grover and others are glad their homes are safe, but their hearts break for the family that lost a loved one. Some say the man who died was smoking while using an oxygen tank and that sparked the fire, but the official cause is still being investigated.