Massive fire rips through Maryland apartment complex

Photo: Anne Arundel County Fire Dept.

(WJLA) - A three-alarm fire broke out in an apartment building in Anne Arundel County, Md. late Friday morning, destroying several homes and leaving a community rattled.

The fire took place in the Seven Oaks community in a four-story, garden-style apartment complex on Peaceful Way in Odenton, Md.

Due to the apartment complex's age, the building was reportedly not equipped with sprinkler systems.

Brad Bell, ABC7's Maryland bureau chief, was on the scene, and NewsChopper 7 caught footage of the blazing fire from above.

"This fire really got out of hand very, very quickly," Bell said over the phone from the scene, describing how firefighters had to evacuate the building and rely on an outside attack with wide-diameter hoses.

The fire reportedly started in a third-floor unit and spread up and across the building. Once the roof collapsed, the blaze burned its way down past the second floor.

Tenant Elizabeth Graham told ABC7 she ran through the building, banging on doors, alerting anyone who was still home to evacuate the building.

Another tenant, Gloria Sanchez, said everything moved at lightning speed, describing how one moment, she faintly smelled smoke, and the next, she was running for her life.

"I just threw on my shoes and my jacket and ran out," Sanchez said. "And then I came around, standing there with my son, and I told him I loved him. And then I saw the flames and smoke."

Bell said, thankfully, that the majority of residents were at work when the fire broke out, late morning. As he observed the scene, Bell said residents were arriving by car at the scene, one by one, with tears in their eyes as they witnessed the destruction of their homes and possessions.

Many said they worried about the fate of their pets that were inside their homes.

"It's a terrible scene out here; a very emotional scene," Bell remarked.

One resident, Steve Moton, said he is a video game collector who had countless electronics in his apartment that were likely destroyed -- but what really concerned him was that he was only able to evacuate three of his four cats before the fire grew too strong and forced him out. He said he hopes the fourth cat was able to make it out safely.

"I don't care about any of that stuff -- it's the fact that I couldn't get him," he said.

Reports indicate anywhere from 10 to as many as 25 apartment units were damaged in the fire. It is unclear at this time how many residents will have to be relocated, though the Red Cross and the apartments' property management company were on the scene assisting affected tenants.

It took 68 firefighters from the Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Howard and Ft. Meade fire departments about three hours to bring the three-alarm blaze under control.

Bell spoke with several residents of the Seven Oaks community who said this latest fire concerned them, as there had been several in the neighborhood just like it over the past few years.

Bell said officials do not yet have a lead on what caused the fire.

At this time, no injuries to any residents or firefighters have been reported.