Three-alarm fire damages apartment complex in St. Francis

ST. FRANCIS -- More than 30 people are homeless after a three-alarm fire destroyed an apartment building in St. Francis early Monday, September 10th. 

Officials say the fire broke out just before 4 a.m. at the Ridge View Apartments, located on S. Whitnall Avenue, just west of I-794.

"All of a sudden we heard people yelling and we smelled smoke and we looked across our apartment to the other apartment and there was fire blowing out of the back window," neighbor Renee Boileau said.

Authorities say the fire appears to have started on a balcony of the 30-unit building. Officials believe the fire began on the third floor and then spread to the attic, causing a portion or the roof to collapse. Six units are a complete loss.

"It's very difficult to get to these fires because (the fire broke out) on the third floor. We had to evacuate people. We had to carry our hose a long distance to get to (the fire). Once the towers got set up we were able to knock it down, but it does take a lot of people to handle something like this," Capt. Larry Passataro said.

The St. Francis Fire Department along with multiple other crews were called to the scene to help battle the flames. It took them roughly two hours to fully douse the flames.

Officials say everyone was evacuated from the apartment complex safely and no injuries were sustained as a result of the fire.

"We just grabbed what we could and just came outside. All we could do was stand and watch. Everything was fine, and then a couple hours later, it's like your whole world has changed," Joshua Tyndall said.

The Red Cross is assisting displaced residents at the St. Francis Community Center.

Officials say residents will not be allowed to re-enter the building until the city can determine if the structure is safe.

The Ridge View Apartment's management will be holding a meeting with displaced residents Tuesday night, September 11th at the St. Francis Community Center.

At this time, the cause of the fire is unknown.

Monitor FOX6 News and for updates on this developing story.