JEFFERSONVILLE, IN (WAVE) - About 80 people were unable to access their homes after a fire ripped through two apartment buildings in Jeffersonville on Thursday afternoon.
Three fire departments, with a total of 45 firefighters, responded to the Bridgepoint Apartments on Viking Drive. It took crews more than three hours to contain the fire, and several firefighters remained overnight to check for hotspots.
Six victims stayed overnight in the Red Cross shelter at nearby Bridgepoint Elementary. Many more stayed with family, and several feared they had lost all of their possessions.
"Women were banging on the doors yelling, 'Fire, Fire!'" said Debra Allen, as she watched her apartment building burn. "I've never seen a fire like this. It's horrible."
The wind, which was gusting up to more than 20 miles per hour, made the flames more difficult to fight. Firefighters arrived six minutes after receiving the 911 call, and the fire had already spread to a second apartment building, Jeffersonville Fire Chief Eric Hedrick said.
"It had a big jump start on us," Hedrick said around 5:30 p.m., when he told reporters that the fire had been mostly contained by using the buildings' fire walls.
Investigators haven't determined what caused the fire, but Hedrick said it likely started in a corner unit of the building at 1920 Viking Drive.
As of 11 p.m. Thursday, firefighters had taped off both buildings aren't weren't letting tenants inside. Smoke affected all 48 units, emergency crews said.
Maintenance workers went around the buildings banging on doors to alert residents after the fire started. One person jumped from her apartment to escape the flames, suffering minor injuries. There were no other reported injuries to tenants or firefighters.
Firefighters rescued about five cats and dogs, but many residents feared their pets had died in the fire.
"It's hard because you've lost everything -- so many families have," said Angel Masters, a high school student who came home to see the fire in her apartment building. "It's a day to remember. You won't be able to forget it."
Red Cross volunteers assisted about 50 people throughout the day with water, clothing and a place to rest. Volunteers said they would keep the shelter open until the need was met.
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