She was getting ready to take her employer's four-year-old daughter to school when she heard shouts and screams.
Curious, Ms Siti Rodiah, 39, an Indonesian maid, went to the balcony and saw thick black smoke coming out of the unit diagonally below her 16th-storey apartment.
She had been told not to take the lift if a fire broke out, but panicking, she and other residents ignored fire-safety signs and took the lift anyway.
The fire broke out around 11am yesterday on the 15th-storey of Block 33 at Ris Grandeur, a condominium along Elias Road in Pasir Ris.
Said Ms Rodiah, who has been working in Singapore for eight years: "I was so scared, but I had to reassure her (the girl) that everything was going to be all right."
She said she grabbed the child's hand, went outside her unit to alert the neighbours and took the lift down.
Ms Rodiah added: "This is my first time seeing a fire like this. I couldn't think properly and I didn't take anything with me."
Her employer, education officer Susan Chiong, 40, returned home from work after Ms Rodiah alerted her of the fire.
Ms Chiong said: "What matters is that everyone is safe. After this incident, I feel that it is important that we teach domestic helpers how to manage in an event of a fire, since they are the ones at home during the day."
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) sent one fire engine, two Red Rhinos, two fire bikes, one support vehicle and one ambulance to the scene, and the fire was put out in less than 10 minutes.
SCDF said the fire involved the contents of a bedroom in the affected unit.
A 16-year-old boy was taken to Singapore General Hospital for smoke inhalation. He was conscious.
The New Paper understands that he was an occupant of the affected unit, and had tried to put out the fire with a hose reel before firefighters arrived.
SCDF advises members of the public not to panic in the event of a fire.
It says they should alert others of the fire by shouting and try to evacuate the area without endangering themselves. They should also take the stairs and not the lift when evacuating a building.
This article was published on May 7 in The New Paper.
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