FRESNO, California. (KSEE) – It was around 4:30 on Sunday morning that 14-year-old Kaitlyn Nichols said she heard sounds coming from the backyard of her grandmother’s apartment building, where she’s living for the summer.
“I was watching TV and then all of a sudden I started hearing things in the backyard, I figured someone was just rustling around,” Nichols said.
Kaitlyn says she went to check what was happening, and when she opened the front door, she saw flames engulfing a nearby shed – flames that quickly spread to her building.
“We started knocking on everybody’s doors, screaming ‘fire, fire..’ you could start to hear the building start to collapse,” she said.
The five-alarm fire affected 13 total units, leaving 56 residents displaced. Three people were injured, one of them as a result of jumping from a second-story balcony to escape the flames.
Officials say the cause of the fire is unknown, and because of the extent of the damage, finding an origin is unlikely.
Those 56 residents left without a home during a dangerous heat wave, loaded onto buses, and taken to a Red Cross temporary evacuation point at the Ted C Wills Community Center, where they’re providing food, water, casework and financial assistance.
“Then we’ll work with all of our community partners to see what else is available for them…See what is available from the property management, see how they can get placed into another unit,” said American Red Cross spokesperson Taylor Poisall.
According to the Fresno Fire Department, the total number of residents displaced by fires so far this year is now 677.