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68-year-old Waterbury man killed in 3-alarm Colley Street fire identified

Waterbury's Fire Chief says the fire quickly erupted after people working on a scooter at ground level and its fuel was in the atmosphere.

WATERBURY, Conn. — Update as of July 14 at 2:05 p.m.

The Waterbury Fire Chief has reported that the victim in Monday's fire has been identified as 68-year-old Elias Koulis. The cause of the fire has been listed as accidental.

Update as of July 14 at 11:15 a.m.

Waterbury fire crews returned to the scene of the fire that killed a man in his early 70's Monday to put it out for good. Officials say it rekindled around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Original Story Below

A large fire, reportedly started by a moped, has destroyed a Waterbury apartment building and a two-family house, resulting in the death of a man, who couldn't get out.

Sources tell FOX61 the body of a 71-year-old resident of the apartment complex, on the corner of Colley and Robbins Streets, was discovered by firefighters at approximately 4 pm Monday, according to a city source.

Waterbury's mayor confirmed in a statement that the fire "claimed the life" of a resident.

The demolition of the two-family residence was largely complete by 5:00 p.m. However, crews were holding off on taking down the 12 unit apartment building, from which 35 residents were displaced, as the body needs to be removed first.

Residents of the mixed-use building, which included a first-floor market, were sent scrambling just before 10:00 a.m.

"I was in my room and I heard crackling sounds and I looked," said Kenny Williams, a resident. "My window blew open. The fire almost hit me."

He is rehabilitating from a traumatic brain injury. A member of his rehabilitation team was in his apartment when the fire broke out.

"The only thing I could do is run and get my staff and say 'yo, we got to get out of the house,'" Williams said. "She said 'what’s going on and I said 'there’s a fire.' And then, boom! Right through my kitchen."

Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary released the following statement:

“I’m deeply saddened by yesterday’s devastating fire on Colley Street that claimed the life of a Waterbury resident, and uprooted the lives of 14 families. The city immediately contacted the American Red Cross, who responded to the scene to assist families with immediate needs, and provide comfort kits,  recovery envelopes, and community partner referrals. I’d like to thank the Waterbury Fire Department, the Waterbury Police Department, and all those involved for their  quick response, and their commitment to our residents despite the personal dangers they faced.”

"I can’t thank him enough," said a teary-eyed Kali Sastrum, Williams Therapist. "He saved my life. We ran as the flames were coming down the stairs."

She said it was as if the flames were chasing them.

"I’m able to go home to my son and my husband," she added. "If it wasn’t for him, I would’ve been stuck in there."

While a 71-year-old man, who had a hard time getting around, according to residents, was killed. His neighbor made it out of his third-floor window.

"There’s a pole on the side of my building," said Al-Tariq Heath, a resident. "So, I grabbed it and I shimmied down a little bit. I got down to about the second floor and I jumped off."

Another source tells FOX61 the fire may have been started when residents were working on a moped or scooter on an apartment porch.

"Before the fire, I left out and I seen them messing around with the moped, but I didn’t think nothing of it," said Keila Porras, a resident. "Then, I get a call that the house is on fire."

She rushed back home because her 3-year-old daughter was there with her cousin next-door. They were able to get out.

Porras said, "I am hurt. I’m numb. No tears. I am emotionless."

35 residents of the 12 unit apartment building were displaced. The adjacent two-family house is also a total loss.

Several hundred Eversource customers lost power when firefighters requested their electricity be cut off.

The Red Cross says it is helping ten families impacted by the fire, 21 adults and five Children on Colley Street, and three families on Robbins Street --10 adults. 

** Editor's Note: Mayor O'Leary's statement was added Tuesday, July 14.**