13 families displaced after Little Havana apartment fire

MIAMI (WSVN) - Crews were able to contain a fire that broke out at an apartment building in Little Havana, early Sunday, but the blaze left 13 families who live in the structure without a place to call home.

According to Miami Fire Rescue, the fire started in a third-floor unit in the building located on Flagler Street, near 22nd Avenue.

Thick, dark smoke crept through the third floor as the paint melted off the walls. “I heard the ringing. I tried to get out of my apartment, but I can’t get out because of the smoke,” said resident Antonia Vargas.

Officials said the blaze started in unit 313, where an elderly man lives.

That resident, identified as Roberto Vilches, said he tried to exit the unit as soon as he realized what was happening. Speaking through a translator, he said he had to run, because if not, he would have suffocated in his own home.

Crews quickly responded to the intense scene. “As our units arrived, they could see heavy flames from a third floor apartment,” said Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll.

The smoke pushed one woman to her third-floor balcony, giving her nowhere to go. Firefighters came to her rescue and took her down to safety.

Carroll said Vilches was very fortunate. “The resident of that unit was very lucky that his smoke detector went off, because you can see that he has to use a walker to get around,” he said.

Officials said elderly people living on the other floors were sheltered in place by firefighters, ready to evacuate them if the fire spread.

But crews were able to contain the flames to Vilches’ unit.

No one was hurt.

Sunday evening, 7News cameras captured Miami Fire Rescue checking to make sure it was safe to some of the residents to return home. Others, however, were not as fortunate.

The American Red Cross is providing assistance to the 13 families that were displaced. “It is a state of disbelief,” said American Red Cross spokesperson Roberto Baltodano. “Nobody imagines that this going to happen to them.”

For the youngest impacted, like 14-year-old Carlos Moreno, the fire was an eerie reminder about how delicate life truly is. “It’s a little scary ’cause, you know, you can die here,” he said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation

Officials said the building is still structurally sound.

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