By HAROLD COBIN and PATRICK R. LINSEY
Hour Staff Writers
NORWALK — Norwalk firefighters responded to a pair of blazes Tuesday — one in a public housing complex and another in the basement of a Friendly Road home.
They follow a finding last month by state officials that fires are on the rise in 2007.
Two people were driven from their apartment Thursday morning by a bedroom fire at the Roodner Court public housing project in South Norwalk.
The fire department was notified at 1:47 a.m. of the blaze in the third-floor unit in building 15 on Ely Avenue.
All of the tenants in the 17-unit building fled into the parking lot as firefighters fought their way into the burning apartment.
Firefighters in the attack team said they confronted intense heat. The shell of the building, they said, is constructed of concrete blocks overlaid with drywall, which traps heat.
The ceiling in the bedroom where the fire started collapsed, they said, enabling the fire to burn through the original, flat roof of the three-story building. The fire then spread into the loft beneath the peaked roof that was built over the flat roof about 10 years ago during a major renovation of the housing project.
The residents of building 16, which is attached to 15, also were evacuated when smoke began filling their building.
An investigation by Fire Inspector Kenneth Hall determined the fire started in a window air-conditioner unit. Norwalk police said a resident of the apartment in which the fire started said she smelled smoke coming from her bedroom.
She "went to check it out and there were flames coming from the window air-conditioning unit," said Lt. Robert Bardos, a police spokesman. "Flames spread to her bed, (preventing) her from extinguishing the fire."
All 32 firefighters on duty in the city were called to the scene, along with five engines, two aerial trucks and a rescue unit.
All the residents of building 15 were able to return to their apartments after about four hours, except for the residents of the third-floor apartment across from the one that burned and the two apartments on floors below.
The deputy director of the Norwalk Housing Authority, Candace Mayer, said Thursday afternoon the residents of that apartment would be able to return after a contractor cleaned it of smoke damage.
Later Thursday, shortly before 3:30 p.m., firefighters responded to a basement fire at 5 Friendly Road. Firefighters arrived to find the fire "in a smoldering state," said Deputy Chief David Lepus.
The fire had "burnt itself down (and) consumed all the oxygen," Lepus said, and firefighters extinguished what was left.
There was "quite a bit of damage in the basement" and "light smoke damage throughout the rest of the home," he said.
Six fire vehicles and 20 personnel responded to the scene, including two engines, a rescue vehicle and a rapid intervention team.
The last unit left the scene at 5:08 p.m. The fire's cause is under investigation.
There were no injuries in either fire.
In the first two months of 2007, state fire administrator Jeff Morissette said there were five fatal fires in Connecticut. In the same period, his office investigated roughly double the normal number of fires.
State officials have admonished residents to use caution when using wood-burning stoves or fireplaces and make sure their smoke detectors are working with fully charged batteries.
Gloria Thorsen, 71, was killed and her son, Thomas Thorsen, 38, was badly injured in a fire in their Norwalk apartment Jan. 15. Norwalk's fire marshal said the likely cause was Gloria Thorsen smoking in bed.
Staff writer Patrick R. Linsey may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.