Friendship Place Apartments fire traps residents

Fire investigators in Prince William County are still working to determine what started a fire that trapped residents inside an apartment complex Monday night.

"I thought the whole building was going to burn down," said resident George Ranchos.

The 19-year-old{ } took the trash out around 9 p.m. only to see flames near the roof of a building at Friendship Place Apartments.{ }

"We screamed inside the building, 'Everybody get out! Every body out!, Ranchos said. "I saw the flames going higher and higher."

On the third floor, smoke and fire held families prisoner.

"My dad had a ladder, so I ran to the truck and got the ladder. But, the ladder wasn't big enough," Rancho explained.

Doing the best they could with what they had, Ranchos and his 21-year-old friend, Brad Runyon, helped get six people to safety.

Runyon added, "There was two girls and a guy upstairs smothered in smoke, and they couldn't get out."

One resident's boyfriend helped rescue that trio.

"He went up the steps and it was just too strong, they couldn't get 'em out, they had to go out the window...come out the window right there and drop em down," she said.

The couple's neighbor, Alfred, also lives on the third floor. He escaped the fire by sliding out of his third floor balcony to another below and then jumped. His roommate and at least two other residents followed.

"All I think was just to get out," Alfred recalled.

Everyone made it out safely thanks to caring neighbors. But now, the fire victims face another problem, getting into their apartments to retrieve their belongings. They have not yet been told when they will be allowed to return.

Alfred said, "All I want is for them to open this place so I can get my stuff, put into storage and find a place to sleep."