LAPORTE | A woman and firefighter bringing her down a ladder from a burning LaPorte apartment building are recovering from burns and other injuries sustained in the rescue.
Meanwhile, investigators on Tuesday were still trying to determine what caused the blaze that heavily damaged a 24-unit building at LaPorte Commons Apartments on the city's west side.
"It could have been a lot worse," said LaPorte Fire Chief Andy Snyder.
Firefighters arrived Saturday night to smoke and flames coming from the building on Andrew Avenue.
According to fire officials, firefighter Brett Slater climbed a ground ladder to reach a woman inside her second floor apartment and helped her out a window.
They both were making their down when the ladder became hot from the heat of the flames.
She pushed back off the ladder knocking herself and Slater to the ground 10 feet below.
"That's how close the flames were to the ladder," said LaPorte Fire Department Battalion Chief Darrell Crites.
Snyder said the woman sustained burns to her hands and leg along with a head injury from her fall.
She was taken by ambulance to IU Health LaPorte Hospital where she was admitted for her injuries.
Pat Pease, a LaPorte County EMS administrator, said she could not release the name of the injured woman due to federal privacy laws governing medical patients.
Snyder said Slater suffered second- and third-degree burns to his hands along with smoke inhalation. He was treated and released from the hospital.
A ladder also was extended to a family of three children and two adults also stranded inside their second-story unit. Those individuals made their way down the ladder with help from firefighters without injury, Snyder said.
Snyder said residents in 16 of the units were allowed to go back into their apartments once the fire was extinguished.
Two of the units sustained extensive fire damage while the remaining apartments had just smoke damage.
Snyder said the fire began on a deck outside an apartments occupied by Richard and Kimberly O'Connell.
According to fire officials, the couple told investigators they were awakened by a smoke detector going off and knocked on the doors of neighbors to warn them about the fire.
The cause of the blaze was still being investigated, but Snyder said it was not suspicious.