"The smoke was overwhelming:" Fire tears through Pewaukee apartment building

PEWAUKEE -- Trapped in a burning building, a group of Pewaukee residents is forced to jump to safety after a fire tore through several apartment units early Friday morning, September 4th. The fire victims say they are just grateful the smoke detectors sounded and are counting their blessings, thankful to be alive.

Balconies crackled as the fire raged through the eight-unit apartment building near Willow Grove Drive and Sunnyridge Road just before 1 a.m.

"To see it so close to me, I got a little panic when he opened the door," said Devi Reddy, fire victim.

A couple called 911 as the flames tore through unit after unit.

"We cannot come down the front door hallway, the smoke was overwhelming," said Daya Pillay, fire victim.

Daya Pillay and his wife, Devi Reddy, were petrified and unsure of how to escape.

"Could not go out, I thought the time had come," said Reddy.

Instead, the Pewaukee Police Department and the fire department came to their rescue.

"There was this policeman, he said there is only one thing -- you need to jump. Kicked out the mesh screen and the kind police officer backed his SUV against the wall and helped through the windows of the roof of the SUV. He said 'just jump, just jump' and he held onto us," said Pillay and Reddy.

Pillay and Reddy escaped out of their second story window to safety. The couple, and the other occupants of the building were not hurt.

Now, authorities are searching for the cause of the fire.

"We believe the fire originated on the backside of the building. They believe somewhere between the first and second floor -- official cause is not determined," said Pewaukee Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Mark Hoppe.

While authorities question, residents know one thing for sure.

"I promise you he was like an angel to us last night," said Pillay and Reddy.

Residents not only praise the help from emergency crews, but also the Red Cross who stepped in to help with immediate needs.

Damage to the apartment building is extensive and it may be a week or so before residents are even allowed to check on their vehicles or sift through what's left of their belongings.

The American Red Cross is assisting approximately 30 people with emergency needs. American Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge, a gift made possible by generous donations and the work of trained volunteers.

Monitor FOX6 News and FOX6Now.com for updates on this developing story.