Firefighters injured cleaning up after Bayou St. John blaze _lowres

Advocate staff photo by Matt Sledge -- Twenty-five residents were evacuated after a fire broke out in a Bayou St. John apartment complex early Thursday morning, according to the New Orleans Fire Department.

Two firefighters were injured Thursday morning while cleaning up after a fire at a Bayou St. John condominium building that had forced the evacuation of 25 residents hours earlier.

The Fire Department said both firefighters were injured when they fell from the second-floor balcony of the building at 818 Moss St. about 11:30 a.m., nearly nine hours after the fire was brought under control.

They were removing “salvage covers” that had been used to protect property on the second floor from water used to control the third-floor fire.

Both firefighters were conscious after the fall and were taken to a hospital for evaluation. Capt. Edwin Holmes, a Fire Department spokesman, said he did not know the extent of their injuries.

The Fire Department said the first call about the fire was received about 2:15 a.m.

Melissa Calico, the association manager for the condo building, said she believed the fire began when a tenant smoking a cigarette fell asleep on a sofa in a third-floor unit.

A neighbor rushed over to try to put out the fire with a handheld extinguisher, but by then the blaze had grown too strong, Calico said.

Firefighters arrived about 2:20 a.m. and did a door-to-door search for residents as smoke filled the complex. Twenty firefighters brought the fire under control at 2:51 a.m.

Two women inside the complex were given oxygen but declined further treatment, the Fire Department said. A cat saved from the blaze was not injured.

Calico said she expected most residents to be able to return to their apartments by Thursday evening.

The apartment where the fire started, however, was a charred wreck. Calico said the woman who lived there was staying with a friend.