Within a few minutes of several local fire departments arriving, the Clark Street apartment house was nearly fully engulfed. The fire had started from a tenant who had placed a pizza in its box in an oven to reheat it. When the box caught fire, it was thrown out a back door and landed against the apartment building that was home to 26 residents.
Juan Diaz was trapped on the third floor of the burning house on Clark St. in Willimantic on Sunday afternoon. As local fire companies fought the fire from all sides of the house, Diaz suddenly appeared three stories up as the entire building was bursting into flames. Willimantic Fire Captain Theriault said latter, that there was no time to go for a longer ladder, Diaz was going to have to escape immediately using an aluminum extension ladder. It didn’t quite reach the third floor of the house. Diaz did connect with the ladder but suffered a cut on his hand from hanging from the broken window. His family stood on Main Street watching as he was trying to escape.