Patricia Ramdass cut her church visit short Sunday when a friend phoned her to say that her apartment building was on fire. When she arrived at Lake Park Gardens, she saw smoke billowing from her building and started sobbing.
"This year, this is another one of those days," she said through tears. "This whole year has been so rough for me, and this is just another day that's really bad."
Ramdass was among dozens of tenants kept away from their units during Sunday’s fire near the 4700 block of Northwest 10th Court, a short distance northeast of Florida’s Turnpike and West Sunrise Boulevard.
No one was hurt during the incident, according to Plantation Fire Department Battalion Chief Joel Gordon.
Two units were destroyed in the fire and an additional five units sustained water damage, a property manager for the apartments told NBC 6 South Florida. Of the water-damaged units, two had no people living inside them, the manager said.
During the fire, about 25 families were evacuated, Gordon said. While some families were displaced, others were expected to be allowed back into their units after a fire safety inspection.
The Fire Marshall determined smoking indoors sparked the flames. Investigators said the occupant of one of the units admitted to smoking earlier.
Norris Brown said the fire began in his bedroom at Lake Park Gardens while he was rearranging his room. "I panicked," he said. "Then I fell down, and my brother helped me up, and we just ran out the door," he said.
Brown said he didn't know how the fire started in his bedroom. "There was no heater," Brown said. "I don't know where it started from."
Brown, who left his apartment without shoes, said he was scared when he saw his entire bed engulfed in flames. "I was like, 'Oh my God, my place is gone.' I don't have no place to go to really, you know?" he said.
Firefighters battled through heavy smoke and flames to extinguish the fire. Firefighters said the lack of a water supply to the upper floors, as well as a common roof that the apartments shared, were two challenges they faced.
"Because there are no fire stops, it does turn it into what's kind of a sideways chimney in which the fire and the smoke blows in a sideways direction," Gordon said.
The Red Cross is helping a total of 6 families who were displaced. In all 18 people will be provided with a place to stay for three days.