A fire early Wednesday morning on Eagle Street impacted as many as two dozen people and left one firefighter with a minor injury, fire officials said.
Among those displaced was Rozell Hart and her five children, ages 17 to 23. Everyone got out safely.
“I was sleeping, and I heard the smoke alarms going off,” Hart said Wednesday morning outside her burned-out now-former residence at 16 Eagle St. “I jumped up, and my whole house was full of smoke. I was just scared, trying to get my kids out.”
“I went and I did it, I got them up,” she said. Everyone escaped down the front stairs.
Others in the three-apartment house were roused by neighbors. Residents of the third floor reported getting knocks on their door alerting them to the blaze.
The fire was called in just before 1 a.m., Deputy Fire Chief David Orr said.
The building sustained extensive damage. With its older “balloon-frame” construction, flames spread quickly and soon broke through the roof, he said. What remained of the house after the fire was extinguished was expected to be demolished.
The investigation into how the fire began continued later Wednesday.
Orr said investigators were looking at the fire having possibly broken out in the basement.
No residents were reported injured, he added. “The tenants warned each other there was as fire in the building and got each other out of the building.”
Orr said Wednesday morning the local chapter of the American Red Cross was helping 16 people. The Red Cross later put the total number they assisted at 25, eight adults and 17 children living in two buildings.
One firefighter suffered a minor injury, Orr said, and was treated and released by later in the morning.
Hart spoke after returning to the Eagle Street fire scene, as Wednesday morning’s rain came down. She said she was going afterward to meet with Red Cross officials offering assistance.
She said the family had lived in their apartment for the past 11 years.
“I just grabbed a bag — I was supposed to have surgery today,” Hart said. “I had my bag and my pocketbook and just came out. That’s it. We have nothing else. Everything is gone.”
Jerry Howard; his girlfriend, Jasonna Terry; and her four children, ages 7 to 15, lived on the third floor. They reported others knocking on their door to alert them. Terry said she didn’t hear a smoke detector.
“Fire! Fire! Get out!” Howard recalled hearing as he woke up.
The building sustained extensive fire damage, but firefighters saved neighboring properties, Orr said. “The guys did a great job holding it to the one building,” he said.
Nandanie Varma, owner of 16 Eagle St., said her husband returned to their nearby home at 1 a.m., saw the fire trucks and woke her.
“I was going crazy. I was like, ‘Oh my God, my house is on fire,’ ” she said of her apartment house.
She said her tenants are all good people who have lived there for a long time and care about it. She said she’s owned the property for about eight years.
“That house meant so much to them. They’ve been there a long time,” Varma said. “Watching them cry breaks my heart.”