Several apartments destroyed in Southeast Fresno fire

FRESNO, Calif.

The blaze broke out around 6:00 p.m. at an apartment complex on Tulare near Peach in Southeast Fresno. The firefighters were injured when part of the ceiling collapsed. Fire officials say they were only minor injuries. The one rushed to the hospital is back to work already.

19 people, including 10 children lived in the destroyed apartment units. The fire was so big and dangerous that off-duty fire fighters also responded.

Investigators say a grass fire on this charred patch of land next to the apartment is where the fire started.

"I just was taking the trash out and saw my fence on fire and heard my dogs going crazy," said neighbor Scherry Betancourt. "And just ran in grabbed my kids and stuff and ran out." She lives in a building adjacent to the one that burned. She and her neighbors quickly jumped into action when they spotted the flames.

"Then we started to try to put the fire out with the extinguishers," she said. "I ran to every unit... we have extinguishers on the wall, and broke 'em, then brought them all this way and was just handing them over to these apartments."

The fire crew rushed everyone out of their burning homes. But inside one unit the ceiling collapsed onto a firefighter. Then came the mayday call, one fire fighters never want to hear.

"Our firefighters did a fantastic job of maintaining calm, seeking out who it was that needed assistance and getting that person outside," said Fresno Fire Battalion Chief Rich Cabral.

Because of that injury and temperatures near 100 degrees extra fire fighters arrived for back up. "They've had a long day," Cabral said. "This is their second day on duty. We're making sure they're hydrated, they're rested and we've also done a recall of off-duty fire fighters."

Nine adults and 10 children lost nearly or all of their belongings in the fire. The American Red Cross is helping those families find a new place to stay. And investigators are searching for what originally sparked the fire.

Crews also rescued a dog from one the units. These crews have chased small grass and brush fires all weekend. They say this is prime example of why dry brush needs to be cleared away from buildings and homes.

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