The fire started in a car port between a house and a four-unit apartment building. Vehicles burned, and power lines came down, arcing and popping on the ground. Fresno Fire Department Capt. Brad Driscoll said the lines limited firefighters' response.
"When our units arrived we found multiple power lines down related to a car fire that started under a car port and spread to the rest of the apartment," he said. "Our crews were aggressive with the fire attack to get the fire knocked down, but they were delayed by the power lines that were down."
The fast moving fire was a nightmare for residents like Mary Powell.
"My apartment is right there, and it started coming toward my apartment and I just started yelling everybody get out," she said. "There was several explosions. The cars started blowing, the windows started blowing. It was so close in the beginning to my apartment that I just got my kids and took them way over there."
Three people were hospitalized with smoke inhalation, one suffered burns. A resident who did not want to be named said he barely escaped.
"It happened so damn fast it went up faster than I can possible believe," he said.
He watched from across the street as his apartment was destroyed.
"I'd recently gotten everything out of storage," he said. "It was in the front room, unfortunately that just added fuel to the fire went up faster than we could put it out. And now every last little bit of everything we own is gone, oh my God."
Fire investigators are not sure what caused the fire. They say some of the apartments were illegally wired to steal electricity.
The Red Cross is assisting the three or four families displaced by the fire with housing, food and clothing.