Working smoke detector alerts tenant in four alarm fire - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Working smoke detector alerts tenant in four alarm fire

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

The four-alarm fire that destroyed two buildings in downtown Iowa City didn't take any lives.

Officials are crediting a working smoke detector as the reason.

"I never thought anything like this would happen in my lifetime.  I thought this only happened in the movies," said Molly Golemo, a tenant living in an apartment above Bruegger's Bagels in Iowa City.

Golemo believes the scene in the early morning hours of September 24th could have played out much differently had she not fallen asleep in her living room near her front door.

"I woke up to a very faint beeping and the smell of smoke," Golemo said.

The faint beeping sound was from a smoke detector in Bruegger's Bagels directly below her apartment.

"It really didn't hit me what was going on until I opened the front door and the smoke overtook me almost instantly," she said.

Golemo ran downstairs, out of the building, and called 911.

"As I was calling 911, I looked back at the electrical box, and that's when I saw it go up in flames."

But she didn't stay out very long.

"You're realizing you're doing things without knowing what's happening, and my first thought was there's more people up in the apartment.  I'm the only one that has left," Golemo said.

With smoke filling the hallways, Golemo ran in back upstairs and pounded on the doors of the other two units in the building.

A man was asleep in one of the units.  Firefighters were able to rescue him when they arrived.

It wasn't long after, Golemo stood outside watching as the entire building was consumed by flames.

In a fire, time is of the essence, and the smoke detector alerted Golemo with enough time to act.

"It could have turned out much worse. A working smoke detector, Godsend, very helpful," said John Grier, Iowa City Fire Marshal.

Officials will resume their investigation Thursday and hope to wrap things up soon after.

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