South Florida

1 Hurt, Dozens Evacuated in Opa-locka Apartment Fire

Dozens of residents had to be evacuated from their homes and one woman was sent to the hospital after an early morning fire ripped through an apartment complex Tuesday in Opa-locka.

Many residents at 1355 Ali Baba Avenue told wild stories of how they made it out alive.

"Somebody was banging on my window loud to wake me up," said Sophia Jackson. "When I looked out the fire was big so we jumped over the wall, I got my kids out."

"I wake up my mom, she was knocked out I said 'Mommy please help me we need to get the kids out... we have to evacuate the building,' she is like 'oh my God, no,no,'" said Esperanza Avendano.

Edwina Jones told NBC 6 South Florida that she accidentally started the fire after leaving a candle burning as she fell asleep.

She said she awoke to find that the candle had overflowed and started a fire in her unit. She attempted to put out the fire, but the flames were too great.

"But I could not put it out fast enough, then my asthma started flaring up and everything got caught up inside the fire," she said.

Jones managed to get out with one pet, but her other pet, a bull terrier dog, died in the fire.

Fire rescue crews were busy treating dozens of residents, including 19 children, who were forced out of their apartments as heavy smoke moved quickly through the three, two-story buildings.

The fire was contained to the one unit. The car right outside was burned as well. The rest of the building has smoke and water damage.

Crews say there are about 120 apartments in all. They say all of the residents made it out safely. One woman was hospitalized for smoke inhalation, but she is expected to be okay.

According to officials with the Red Cross, the entire building where the fire broke out, which houses 21 apartments, has been condemned. This leaves 38 adults and 19 children displaced.

The Red Cross is on hand to assist residents who are in need. They plan to open a shelter.

"A lot of people think of us as responding to a storm and we do do that, but 90% of our responses are to home fires which in South Florida are on average every 20 hours," said Ines Hernandez-Siqueira of the Red Cross.

It is not known just how many residents will need to stay at the shelter, but red flyers posted on the building warn residents it's not safe right now.

And city officials say nobody's going inside until that changes.

"Our first and foremost intent is to ensure that the structure and the integrity of the building is something that is habitable for those residents, so compliance is going to be paramount," said assistant city manager, David Chiverton.

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