Apartment residents and their pets were forced to flee – some dangling from a second story – Thursday as a fire swept through a building at the Golfview Apartments on St. Joe Road.
Crews arrived three minutes after the fire was reported at 4:43 p.m. to find multiple people trapped inside and police "throwing ladders" to assist people, including children, who were escaping from windows, Paul Veldman, Fort Wayne Fire Department's chief of operations, said at the scene.
Officials didn't know where or how the fire started, but a large hole was cut from the top of the building and many people escaped from the second story of the two-story building. Veldman said there were two people with minor injuries.
Firefighters also fought the fire inside. Veldman estimated the fire was brought under control in about 25 minutes.
One escapee, Donn Price, waited for her daughter to come home from school on St. Joe Road although the road was blocked off from Evard Road to the north to St. Joe Center Road to the south with only limited traffic.
Price said she witnessed one older man being evacuated out of a two-story window and taken away on a stretcher by emergency personnel.
Price said she believed the fire started from a cigarette catching fire on a couch and that the building is smoke-free. She also estimated that about 20 to 24 units were affected by the fire.
Veldman could not confirm any details.
Golfview Apartments is in the 6500 block of St. Joe Road and has 192 units, according to rent.com. It sits across from Shoaff Park.
A manager at the community center next to the affected building said she was not allowed to comment. Residents were seeking shelter at the center while they sought information or other accommodations.
Michael Krafft, a resident there for about six months, walked toward the community center with his parents, Darryl and Bev Oster, who were carrying blankets and children's clothing.
Krafft said he had crawled out of his apartment and then assisted a police officer rescue a child.
Although his apartment was not touched by flames, Krafft said smoke damage would probably mean he lost everything.