Shortly before 1 p.m. a two-alarm fire broke out on Bartlett Street between 26th and Cesar Chavez. The two-story building that caught fire housed nine people, all of whom are now displaced as the building is damaged beyond habitability, according to Assistant Fire Chief Tom Siragusa. Firefighters were able to control the fire by about 1:15 p.m., and no one was injured.

Sam Schwiner, who works at Your Print Shop on Cesar Chavez, said he was heading out for some lunch when he saw the plumes of smoke coming from the building. He promptly called 911 and ran over to the building. He said he and one other man began ringing the bell and yelling to alert anyone inside of the danger. One woman came up from the basement, Schwiner said, and told the men she had heard objects falling above her and seen her lights flicker but didn’t realize the building was on fire.

Sam Schwiner at Your Print Shop shows stains on his shirt he got while trying to make sure everyone in the burning building got out. Photo by Laura Wenus

Sam Schwiner at Your Print Shop shows the stains he got on his shirt while he and another man tried to make sure everyone in the burning building got out. Photo by Laura Wenus

Schwiner recalled that he and another man then ran up to other doors and even managed to break one open, hoping to evacuate any other tenants caught unawares, but they were turned back by thick clouds of smoke. By that time, firefighters were arriving on scene, he said. Residents, most of whom appeared to be in their late 20s or 30s, watched from the corner of 26th and Bartlett.  They declined to comment.

Miguel and Jessica Gonzalez, who live next door to the damaged building between it and the newly constructed apartments facing Cesar Chavez, said they were alerted to the fire by a delivery driver who yelled up at them from the street. They went to the backyard to find flames coming from the back of one of the units next door.

Firefighters inspect the inside of the burned building. Photo by Laura Wenus

Firefighters inspect the inside of the burned building. Photo by Laura Wenus

While also calling 911, the two attempted to put out the fire with their own garden hose, worried that the flames would spread to their building. A shed in the backyard, the siblings said, was already starting to smoke. They guessed the fire might have started in a laundry room, where they had heard a washer and dryer running since the night before.

Public records indicate the owner, Steven Silver, bought the building in 1998. A man identified by a bystander as Silver declined to comment.