January 20, 2017 6:44 pm
Updated: January 20, 2017 9:17 pm

Edmonton man saved people from fatal apartment fire: ‘I don’t want to be a hero’

WATCH: When a fire broke out at the apartment building next to his restaurant, Riza Kasikcioglu ran inside to make sure residents got out. He even carried an elderly woman on his back. Here, he explains what happened.

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When Riza Kasikcioglu realized the apartment building next to his restaurant was on fire, he didn’t hesitate.

“I started to call 911 and then right away I was running that way to save the people.”

Kasikcioglu is the owner of Maximo’s Pizza and Donair, which is right next to the 17-storey apartment tower on Jasper Avenue and 117 Street.

A fire broke out in a suite on the seventh floor shortly before 7 p.m. Thursday. One person was killed and another taken to hospital with undetermined injuries.

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READ MORE: 1 dead, 1 hospitalized after downtown Edmonton apartment fire 

Once Kasikcioglu got off the phone with emergency dispatch, he found a way inside the apartment building and propped the door open with bags of salt. Then, he started banging on doors, yelling at people to get out.

“I started to knock all the way – right, left, right, left – all the way. I jumped in the smoke, [held my breath], came back very fast.

“I did this on all the floors. On my way, at least two people were sleeping, two brothers, they were very old.”

“Many people came out from the doors… They heard me and came out,” he said.

Kasikcioglu said he also found some pet dogs and was able to get them out of the building.

Quickly, he noticed the smoke was getting thicker.

“Entering the fire area, there was too much smoke coming. If I went inside… I would die. It was impossible to go.”

He said he turned another corner and found a group of people trying to get down the stairs.

“I found a lady with a wheelchair. She was blocking the way. Everyone was waiting behind and in the smoke. I took her wheelchair on my back… I went down the stairs and then I ran up again… 10 or 12 floors… On my way, I knocked one more time… shouting.”

He said he had trouble finding his way out through the smoke.

“I was unable to breathe… I lost my way,” he recalled. “I ran one way and it was the right way. I went out. It was clear.”

Kasikcioglu was covered in smoke and soaking wet from the fire sprinklers. He was met by several EMTs.

“They put me… on a chair, gave me oxygen… They took care of me.”

About an hour later, Kasikcioglu went home.

Jasper Avenue was shut down completely for much of Thursday night as emergency crews responded to the fire.

Deputy fire chief of operations Scott MacDonald estimated about 500 people lived in the building. Ten residents spent the night at the Red Cross. An emergency reception centre was set up at Victoria School for displaced residents.

Several tenants admitted they heard the fire alarms Thursday but didn’t think the danger was real.

“I was on the 17th floor and I heard a fire alarm I didn’t really pay attention,” Wayne Anderson said. “When I looked outside, I saw flames coming out of the seventh floor and I said, ‘this doesn’t look very good.’ Then, five minutes later, this guy came banging on the door says, ‘out!’ so I didn’t have a chance to do anything.

“The alarms went off but I… thought [it was] a false alarm,” Anderson explained. “Then when the guy banged on the door, I walked down the stairs and there were fire people all over the place.”

Watch below: 1 dead, 1 hospitalized after downtown Edmonton apartment fire

While Kasikcioglu was at work Friday, several people stopped by to see him.

“Lots of my customers, they said ‘thank you,’ they gave me a hug.”

But Kasikcioglu shies away from the recognition.

“I don’t want to be hero. This is life. This is me.

“I’m Turkish. I’m Muslim. We don’t think anything – just save the people – don’t worry about dying, nothing.”

“Saving one life – the Quran says – is saving all human life.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. The name of the victim has not been released.

Watch below: An Edmonton man is being hailed a hero for saving people during a downtown apartment fire Thursday night. Kent Morrison has the story. 

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