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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Christmas tree fire forces Spokane children to jump from third-floor apartment window

Two children jumped from a third-floor window of a South Hill apartment building to escape a fire Tuesday morning after the family’s Christmas Tree burst into flames, according to their dad.

One child who jumped as people gathered below had to be taken to the hospital to be checked out, but fire officials said his injuries were not life threatening.

The fire occurred just after 9:30 a.m. at Regal Ridge Apartments located at 5111 S. Regal St. The third-story window is about 25 feet above the ground, said Julie O’Berg, deputy chief of operations for the Spokane Fire Department.

The father, Kevin Hulme, was not in the apartment when the tree caught fire, but said his two children, Kinsley, who jumped first and wasn’t hurt, and Kaiden, had a harrowing escape.

“All I know is they caught Kinsley and Kaiden was a little too heavy,” Hulme said.

His wife said when the family Christmas tree caught fire, she went out into the hallway to call for help, but when she turned around the entire tree was burning, Hulme recounted.

Ulises Lopez, a downstairs neighbor, said he heard screams and ran upstairs to find the mom in the hallway. She said the children were locked in the apartment and trapped. He ran back downstairs and called 911 before coming back up to try to get inside the apartment.

“As I was talking to the operator, I was also trying to open the door,” Lopez said.

He eventually got the door open, but smoke flooded out, stinging his eyes and making it difficult to breathe, Lopez said. At that point, someone else was coming up the stairs to help so Lopez went back to his apartment and got his dogs, Roxy and Noel, out of the building.

Trevor Main manages the Regal Village apartment complex, located just behind Regal Ridge Apartments where the fire occurred.

While there aren’t many children who live at Regal Village, Main said he’s used to hearing kids playing and yelling at the adjacent complex, but Tuesday morning those screams sounded different.

“There was a young boy yelling, ‘Help me! Help me!’ over and over,” Main said.

Main waited a minute, thinking a child may have fallen and his parents would be right there to help him, but when the screaming didn’t stop he ran over. When he ran into the parking lot there was “black smoke just pouring out of that top apartment,” Main said.

“There was a boy leaning out the window crying and screaming for help,” Main said. “I just went running straight for that apartment.”

The boy’s mother was down below, Main said, yelling about her “babies.”

Main kicked the door open and plastic-smelling smoke poured out. He tried to enter the apartment but didn’t make it far.

“I don’t know the layout and I can’t see,” Main said. “I got close to the ground and tried to cover my face.”

He went back downstairs where a group of about four people stood telling the boy to jump.

“I yelled at him, ‘You know you have to. You have to. We will catch you,’ ” Main said.

The boy finally jumped, falling headfirst like a spear, Main said.

“Watching him fall was like so scary, headfirst,” Main said.

A group of people attempted to catch him, but the young boy slipped through their arms and scraped his face on the landscaping rock below, Main said.

Luckily, the group had been able to break the boy’s fall and reduce the impact, Main said.

After the boys and their mother were safe, Main and other bystanders began going door to door banging on people’s doors to make sure they evacuated. The firefighters arrived a short time later and jumped into action, Main said.

“I was glad I didn’t decide somebody’s got it, somebody will take care of it,” Main said. “It was neat watching everybody, everybody just band together, especially during these times.”

O’Berg said the flames were contained to the Hulme’s apartment, but there was water and smoke damage to at least three adjacent apartments. The Red Cross was called to the scene to help the 16 displaced occupants out of six potentially damaged apartments, she said.

Lopez and his wife, Krystal, had just moved into their unit a week before the fire.

“We’re thankful nobody got hurt, but we’re also worried about the damage, whatever it is,” Lopez said. “Our whole life is there basically.”

The couple had yet to get renters insurance set up for their new place, Lopez said. For now, Lopez said they plan to stay at his in-laws who live nearby.

Fire crews continued to work on scene for several hours as investigators began work to determine the cause of the fire. Residents of the complex looked on, asking their neighbors if they were OK.

Matt Beal, principal at Mullan Road Elementary where the children go to school, said he went to the apartment to check on the family .

“These are my kids,” he said. “We’re worried about them.”

Beal brought lunches and helped arrange for a school counselor to connect with families to provide help.

This story is developing. Photographer Colin Mulvany contributed to this story.