A three-alarm fire gutted an east-central Fresno apartment complex Thursday afternoon, collapsing the roof, displacing 32 people and injuring several, including an infant.
More than 60 firefighters battled the blaze at the Pinewood Place Apartments, 5226 E. Olive Ave. It was reported about 3:20 p.m and crews were on the scene within three minutes.
The point of origin and cause remained under investigation Thursday night.
Four upper-floor apartments have heavy fire damage; the lower floor sustained smoke and water damage, Fresno Fire Public Information Officer Hector Vasquez said.
There were no fire sprinklers installed in the apartments, nor were they required because of the building’s age.
Angel Ruelas, 25, and Andrew Gutierrez, 27, were walking back to the complex from a nearby market when they saw smoke. At first they thought it was a barbecue, but flames quickly spread.
“It just engaged so fast,” said Ruelas, who believes the fire started on an upper patio.
They knocked on doors and got people out.
One resident “didn’t even know,” he said. She tried to go back in but “her family stopped her and she just broke down.”
“It’s good we were here,” he said. “There was nobody out here.”
Ko Her, a 34-year-old resident, said he was at Wild Water Adventures and looking at his Facebook feed when he saw a news update.
“I said, ‘Honey, that looks like our apartment building,’ ” he said. He said he expects smoke damage will make his unit unlivable. He and his family will stay with in-laws.
Malajaha Standifer stood across from the charred building next to a suitcase of clothes. She and seven others were in a downstairs apartment when they heard banging on their door and someone yelling, “Fire, fire.” Her family escaped injury.
She said the blaze began upstairs. “We’re just talking to the Red Cross now, to get food and water,” she said.
Residents in at least eight apartments were displaced, and relief workers were considering opening an emergency shelter, said Jessica Piffero, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross of Central California.
Two residents, including an infant, were treated for smoke inhalation, while another was taken to the hospital after experiencing chest pains, Battalion Chief Tony Escobedo said.
Two dogs were rescued unharmed.
517 structure fires in Fresno in 2017 as of June 29. There were 484 as of that date in 2016, with a year-end total of 1,002.
A firewall stopped the flames from getting into a neighboring unit, Deputy Fire Chief Ted Semonious said.
It took 30 minutes to get the blaze under control, he said.
There was initial concern that people could be trapped, but Fire Chief Kerri Donis said all occupants are believed to have gotten out.
Cal Fire, Fresno County Fire and the Clovis Fire Department also were on the scene.
Traffic along Olive between Peach and Minnewawa continued to be diverted Thursday night as firefighters worked to clear the scene.