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Residents tossed kids out of windows to safety amid fire at Valley West Inn, officials say

Fire crews say at least 100 people were displaced after the fire destroyed 127 units.

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — A three-alarm fire at the Valley West Inn in West Des Moines forced people to jump from windows to safety Monday night.

Crews said people were tossing children from windows when they arrived on scene.  

The West Des Moines Fire Department said they got an automatic alarm at 11:16 p.m. Monday, and just three minutes later dispatch received a call for a fire inside the building. 

Some people were able to get out on their own, but firefighters rescued others who were trapped inside. Crews worked with residents to catch children from windows to get everyone out safely. The fire department estimated they rescued two dozen people from the burning building.

The Red Cross was on scene assisting displaced residents. They said they will help residents find temporary housing immediately and eventually find something more permanent.

The hotel has 142 units and 127 of those were occupied at the time of the fire. Fifty units were damaged.

Two people were taken to the hospital for minor injuries and six others were treated at the scene, according to the West Des Moines Fire Department. At least one of those hospitalized has since been released.

"We had people coming up to us that were residents that were grabbing the firefighters and yelling that people were trapped," Whitsell said. "You have an intense fire, smoke, it's late at night. People were waking up to this, they definitely needed a lot of assistance in getting out."

As of Tuesday, residents had not been allowed back inside the building. Dennis Smith, who's been living at the inn for several months, was planning to move out Oct. 5, before the fire changed those plans.

He found out about the fire through a call from a friend.

"My friend called and said that place was on fire, and I looked at my video camera and said 'No!'" Smith said.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire. An initial damage estimate has not yet been released.

"There's a lot of interviews that we have to do, we have to talk to a lot of residents," Whitsell said. "We find where the fire started and then go from there. I wish it was like CSI and answered in 20 minutes, but it's not." 

Six fire departments responded to the fire.

The hotel was also damaged by a fire in January 2018. That fire was contained to the second floor.

Local 5 will continue to update this developing story as information becomes available. Be sure to download the We Are Iowa app or subscribe to Local 5's "5 Things to Know" email newsletter.

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