7NEWS tests personal fire escape ladder after family uses tied sheets to escape apt fire

DENVER - A family shimmied down a rope made of sheet to escape a Centennial apartment fire that injured eight.

The fire at the Copper Terrace Apartments near Dayton Street and Arapahoe Road began around 1 a.m. Monday.

7NEWS tested the escape method and found the family was lucky the sheets did not come untied or rip.

"If there's a fire, the preferred method is something that's been tested and researched, such as an escape rope or escape ladder that you can buy commercially somewhere," said Cunningham Fire Protection District Lt. Jeff Patton.

Cunningham Fire Protection District helped 7NEWS test the method of tying sheets together versus using an escape ladder.

"The problem with using sheets is it's not tested, and the big thing with that is, if they tie a knot and the knot doesn't hold, they're going to fall," said Patton.

At the Cunningham fire station off of Parker Road and Emporia Street, firefighters helped tied together three bed sheets and drape them off of a second floor balcony.

"Tying a 'shoelace knot,' it's not going to hold," said Patton.

In our example, the sheets were anchored to a solid beam railing protecting the balcony, which provided something sturdy to hold the person's weight. In a split decision, anchoring one end of the rope could be the biggest area of concern.

"Understand (that) when you get on the rope or the sheet or whatever you have, when you go that object's going to follow you," said Patton. "You want something that's big enough that it's not going to through the window."

We also tested a commercially manufactured escape ladder, specifically designed for quick fire escapes.

The ladder, which we bought for $30, was wobbly, but much sturdier than the rope made of sheets. We discovered that the ladder was difficult to anchor without practicing a few times.

Firefighters suggested waiting as long as possible for help to arrive.

"The most important thing somebody can do to help themselves is close the door. Close their front door, close the patio door, create as much barrier between themselves and the fire as possible," said Patton.

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