The fire was reported about 1 a.m. Wednesday at the Morning Tree Park Apartments in the 8100 block of 83rd Ave. SW.
West Pierce Fire and Rescue spokeswoman Hallie McCurdy said arriving firefighters found heavy flames and people fleeing. Neighbors reported two residents missing. After firefighters knocked down the flames, they found the bodies of the 64-year-old man a 78-year-old woman believed to be his wife, said Lt. Chris Lawler with Lakewood police.
Heather Fraga told KOMO News she was sleeping in an adjacent unit when her brother woke her up, tossed her his phone and told him to call 911 to report a fire. He then grabbed a fire extinguisher and headed out while Fraga summoned firefighters, then helped bang on doors to alert other neighbors to the fire.
Fraga said when her brother went outside the first time, he saw the man who lived next door out there, who asked him to call 911 to report the fire. As Fraga's brother ran into his unit to toss the phone to his sister, he raced outside to find the man was now missing.
"And he said, 'Oh God, I hope he didn't go back in there,' and then he screamed and crashed the window and was yelling, 'Get out! Just get out!' " Fraga said.
Firefighters were there moments later, and soon, both bodies were removed from the charred unit.
"I'm hoping he just went in to be with his wife," Fraga said. "You know, like 'help me, but I need to get my wife out.' "
"I remember seeing a guy going into his apartment," said neighbor Cara Holm. "And I know people were yelling at him to come out."
By daylight you could see the damage to three apartments with the middle one gutted by fire where the couple lived.
"I didn't realize he was trying to save his wife which is really honorable," said Holm.
Neighbors the man was a war veteran, but otherwise didn't know much about the elderly couple. "It's honoring to know," said Holm, "that he went back inside to try to save his wife."
While fire investigators look for a cause they say there were smoke detectors in the apartment, but they don't know if they were working. They say it's a good reminder to check your own batteries as we come up off Daylight Saving Time.
Officials have not yet released the names of the victims. Investigators are still looking into what sparked the blaze but say there is nothing suspicious.
The Red Cross is helping residents who have been displaced by the fire.