Crews rushed to extinguish fierce flames after a fire broke out inside a vacant townhome in Southwest Miami-Dade, leaving several people on the two adjoining units displaced.
Miami-Dade Police and Fire Rescue units responded to the scene of the blaze at a public housing complex in the Pine Island community, near Southwest 268th Street and 127th Avenue, after they received the call just before noon on Friday.
“We found a townhouse that was fully involved, that had possibly spread out to the other apartments,” said MDFR District Chief Ralph Baena.
Cellphone video captured flames flowing through the roof of the town home.
Crews were initially unable to enter the burning unit, so they rushed neighbors out to safety.
“When I ran outside and I went out to the back, I saw the flames coming out of the windows,” said resident Ana Morales.
Brenda Castillo lives on one of the units next to the one that caught fire.
“I was in the closet — I am a Christian — I was in the closet praying the word of God, and I smelled smoke,” she said. “When I opened the doors from the closet, the whole house – the police was already at the door telling me to get out.”
Officials said the fire was so severe that the roof eventually caved in before firefighters were able to get it under control.
Firefighters had trouble with the power lines in the vicinity of the residence.
Normally they would park a ladder truck on the road to gain access to the blaze, but fire crews managed to run hand lines and placed ladders on the side of the building.
“We immediately created a defensive fire because it was fully involved,” said Baena.
Firefighters worked from the outside to knock the fire down.
Morales showed 7News the extent of the damage to her unit.
“Everything is messed up; the roof came down,” she said.
Morales’ belongings were scattered outside, including family pictures.
“My memories are gone, all garbage,” she said.
Thankfully, firefighters saved the urns containing her parents’ ashes.
“Thank God that I got them, you know. Thank God,” she said.
One firefighter was treated for minor injuries.
At around 4 p.m., 7News cameras captured the charred remains of the townhouse, now mostly reduced to a shell.
Investigators at the scene have been going through the rubble. Florida Power and Light also responded.
The people living next door said the situation could have been avoided.
“People who don’t live there, they come there at night to use drugs and that sort of stuff, but this could have been avoided,” said Castillo.
A resident said a woman had been staying at the townhome. Police officers spoke with her and were seen taking her into custody.
Workers with the county later boarded up the building.
Those who have been displaced will be staying at a hotel for the time being, but it remains unclear where they will go from there.
“My life, this is my stuff. This is what I worked for, for my life,” said Morales.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.