Fire investigators are still probing the cause of a two-alarm fire at a residence hotel that injured 30 people Monday evening, a fire captain said.
Watsonville Fire Capt. Pablo Barreto said Tuesday morning that the investigation into the blaze at the is ongoing.
The fire was reported at 5:43 p.m. and flared up quickly. At least 11 men were hospitalized, six with critical injuries, according to the Watsonville Fire Department.
The fire rapidly spread through the old building, and was mainly in the stairs to a central hallway, filling the hall with thick black smoke and making it difficult for residents to escape. The two-story "hotel" is actually an apartment building that houses about 50 men and was built in the early 1900s, Barreto said.
Police officers who were serving search warrants nearby responded immediately and assisted residents escaping from the first floor, but many were still stranded on the second until firefighters arrived with ladders.
"If it wasn't for the police department and local citizens helping it could have been a lot worse," Barreto said.
Firefighters had the fire under control in about 30 minutes. The front of the building sustained major damage and most of the first half of the hallway and the first floor were also heavily damaged. The entire building sustained smoke and heat damage.
The local chapter of the American Red Cross is helping the 45-50 residents evacuated due to the fire. Volunteers opened up the on Monday evening. About 28 residents used housing vouchers to stay a Watsonville-area motel, according to Sharon Tong, Red Cross spokeswoman.
Tuesday, the Red Cross was trying to find permanent housing for those displaced by the fire, and also replace medications and medical equipment lost in the blaze, Tong said. Meals are being provided to the fire victims.
"All of this work is volunteer-driven and all of the donations are from our local community," Tong said.
—Maria Grusauskas and Bay City News contributed to this report.