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BRIDGETON • Police officers smashed a window with a flashlight early Friday to rescue an elderly couple who were asleep in their back bedroom as a neighboring condo burned in Bridgeton.

An explosion about 4:30 a.m. Friday had rocked the four-unit condo complex on Gallatin Lane, but the 91-year-old blind man and his 89-year-old wife who lived across the hallway from the burning condo were asleep when officers forced their way inside.

The three police officers then ushered the couple out the back door to an enclosed patio, where the cops kicked down a privacy fence to get to safety, said Major Mark A. Mossotti, assistant chief of police in Bridgeton. The man and woman were unhurt, but the three officers suffered minor cuts, Mossotti said.

"I'm just really proud of my officers for what they did," Mossotti said.

Firefighters with the Robertson Fire Protection District climbed a ladder to rescue other occupants from a second-story condo. In all, five residents escaped without injury. One resident suffered cuts. Another person suffered first- and second-degree burns. No firefighters were hurt.

The condos are in the 4100 block of Gallatin Lane. About 4:30 a.m. Friday, the complex exploded. Someone on the parking lot flagged down the first police officers who arrived and pointed out where they could find the blind man and his wife. When firefighters got there, heavy flames were shooting from the building, said Maynard Howell, assistant chief of the Robertson Fire Protection District.

St. Louis County arson investigators are working to determine what caused the two-alarm fire and explosion. A gas leak is one possibility, police say.

About 60 firefighters from Robertson and a half-dozen other departments fought the blaze. The origin of the fire and explosion was in the condo across the enclosed hallway from where the couple lived, Mossotti said. He said a caller to 911 said there was an explosion first, then the fire.

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