Fla. Apartment Complex Displaces 70

LAUDERHILL, Fla. --

Fire officials said two civilians were injured and three firefighters were evaluated for exhaustion after an apartment building fire that took four hours to get under control Friday afternoon.

Authorities received the report of the fire at the Park South Apartments in the 1500 block of Northwest 43rd Avenue, near Sunrise Boulevard east of Florida's Turnpike, at about 1:45 p.m.

Firefighters arrived to find flames and smoke pouring from the roof of the three-story building, which is a complex for senior citizens.

From Sky 10 overhead, firefighters could be seen standing on ladders, spraying water onto the flames on the roof. Lauderhill fire officials said firefighters from 11 different fire departments helped battle the fire, which took four hours to get under control.

Soon after they arrived at the scene, fire officials said people might be trapped inside. By 6 p.m., fire officials still were uncertain whether everyone got out safely.

"We are not 100 percent sure that everyone is out of the building. Because of the fire conditions that were on the third floor, we had to evacuate the third floor. We weren't able to get into the apartment that was on fire," said Lt. Jeff Levy, of Lauderhill Fire Rescue.

In a news release Friday evening, Levy said two people were injured, one of whom was taken to a hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation. Officials said three firefighters were evaluated for exhaustion because of "record-breaking temperatures."

"The heat and the humidity compound things. With the firefighting gear, the heat from the fire, the smoke, it really takes a toll on the firefighters," Levy said.

At one point, the building's roof collapsed, making it nearly impossible for firefighters to go inside.

Officials said the flames, smoke and water damaged 30 units in the building. One factor in the spread of the fire was that the building lacked firewalls to keep the blaze from spreading, and the whole building had wood floors, Local 10's Terrell Forney reported.

Crews worked Friday evening to ensure the building was safe for firefighters to make a walk-through and make sure no hot spots flared up.

Fire Consumes Residents' Belongings

Residents who escaped the fire watched helplessly as the flames consumed their building, and they were forced to breathe in the smell of their personal belongings going up in flames. The few belongings they could grab as they ran from the burning building -- clothes, important documents -- were piled in the breezeways of the building next door. Almost everything else was gone.

The American Red Cross estimated that about 70 people were displaced by the fire.

Among the displaced residents is 83-year-old Iris Brown, who lives in an apartment at the building with her two grandsons, ages 10 and 13. She said she is raising the boys, whose parents died five years ago. The children's father was killed, Brown said, and their mother died shortly thereafter from complications after a surgery.

The family lost everything in the fire, and all they have is the clothes on their backs.

"I dont have insurance for the things -- our furniture and a lot of things I had in the house, clothes," Brown said.

The Red Cross will provide food, medicine, clothing and hotel rooms for the displaced residents.

For many who were already struggling with tough times, the thought of starting over is too much to bear.

"I cannot even think now," Brown said.

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