Nine Left Homeless by Burlington, Vermont Fire

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) -- Nine people were left homeless by an apartment building fire over the weekend.

No one was injured in the blaze, which began at about 2:45 a.m. Sunday in a two-story, wood-framed apartment house in the city's Old North End. Emergency crews arrived to find heavy fire pouring from the building and threatening the next-door apartment house, Burlington's fire marshal said Sunday.

Residents told firefighters as they arrived that two people might have been trapped inside the building, so while crews began battling the blaze from the outside, other firefighters went inside the burning apartments to search for the occupants, according to the fire marshal.

No one was found inside; the residents whom people thought were missing instead were out with friends, according to the fire marshal. The blaze was extinguished at 2:58 a.m. and did not spread to other buildings. All 23 on-duty staff members responded to the scene, Battalion Chief Terry Francis said.

The fire displaced nine people, all of whom are from various parts of Southeast Asia, Francis said. The American Red Cross has helped arrange temporary housing. None of the tenants had renters' insurance, according to the fire marshal.

The building, owned by Khampanh Luangrath of Essex Junction, was insured. The apartments suffered extensive damage - estimated at $90,000 - from heat and smoke, according to the fire marshal.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation Sunday, Francis said. He said investigators need to talk with all nine residents before making a decision, and a ``language barrier'' was slowing that process.

``Everything is all wide open at this point,'' Francis said. ``We need to put together the physical facts with what people's experiences were.''