DENNIS PORT — Nakolay Tsvetkov was nearly asleep when he heard screams. Around 2:35 a.m. Friday, the 29-year-old was trying to get a few hours’ rest ahead of a 4:30 a.m. shift at the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority.
Tsvetkov looked out his window and saw flames. The 29-year-old rushed downstairs in flip-flops, wearing only underwear, taking nothing with him.
“I opened the apartment door and almost passed out, it was so smoky,” he said. “It was so black you couldn’t see anything.”
Now he wishes he had grabbed a photo off his wall. The photograph shows his family gathered in their native Bulgaria for his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Wearing donated sweatpants Friday afternoon, Tsvetkov, who immigrated to this country seven years ago, stared at the charred remains of a Seabreeze Condominiums building on Center Street in Dennis Port.
“I’ve been in this country for seven years,” he said. “Everything I have is gone.”
Two firefighters and two police officers were among the 13 people taken to hospitals after the three-alarm fire tore through the Cape Cod complex early Friday, destroying seven of the building’s 12 units and leaving 33 residents displaced.
The officers and a firefighter had recovered from smoke inhalation Friday afternoon, and another firefighter was expected to recover from minor injuries. Three residents who jumped from the building were hospitalized, fire inspector John Donlan said. The extent of many of the injuries was unknown.
Firefighters arrived on the scene around 2:40 a.m. after getting reports of residents jumping from second-story windows and others lying on the pavement.
Residents tried to fight the fire on their own before authorities arrived, leaving the parking lot littered with fire extinguishers, Donlan said.
The cause is under investigation, but the fire did not appear to be suspicious, Dennis Fire Chief Mark Dellner said at the scene Friday.
The fire started in a first-floor apartment where a woman who used a wheelchair lived, Dellner said.
Robert Johnson, who lives in an adjacent building, rushed into her apartment in his flip-flops and boxer shorts when he saw flames. He pulled the woman through a window, probably saving her life.
“That lady is alive today thanks to his efforts,” Dellner said.
After a sleepless night, Johnson, who is recovering from bypass surgery, was taking a nap Friday afternoon.
Donlan estimated the cost of damage to the building in the “hundreds of thousands.”
The state fire marshal’s office and Dennis police and fire departments are investigating the cause of the fire, which took about an hour to extinguish.
Town assessing records show the building was constructed in the 1970s.
Displaced residents were transported to the Dennis police station, where they received assistance from the American Red Cross, including food, lodging, and emergency supplies, Donlan said. Firefighters from six neighboring towns assisted in the response, including Brewster, Harwich, Yarmouth, and Hyannis.
One of the residents, Danielle Rusev, was getting ready to go to her job as a store clerk at a Main Street gas station early Friday afternoon, when, she said, she saw flames from her second-floor window just after she got out of the shower early Friday morning.
The 38-year-old, who has lived in the complex for more than six years, fought tears as she recalled rushing out of the burning building. The fire burned a hole in the roof of her condo and left her without her television, laptop, a printer, and important documents. As firefighters battled the flames, she and other residents gathered behind the building.
“We just stayed there behind the building and cried and waited,” she said. “You’re trying to build your life and then in 10 minutes it’s all gone.”Faiz Siddiqui can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.