Photographs by Submitted photo
Crews battle a fire at Forest Place Apartments early Thursday.
Originally published May 16, 2013 at 06:23a.m., updated May 16, 2013 at 09:42a.m.
An apartment building in Little Rock caught fire early Thursday, causing $4 million in damage and displacing more than 100 residents, authorities said.
The massive blaze had crews from nearly all Little Rock Fire Department stations in the city responding to Forest Place Apartments in the 1400 block of North University Avenue, Little Rock Fire Department Capt. Randy Hickmon said.
There were no reports of serious injuries on the scene. One person who initially was believed to be unaccounted for was later located safe, authorities said.
"It's kind of a miracle nobody got hurt," Hickmon said, noting there were reports of alarms not operating properly and residents going door-to-door waking up other residents. "Especially when you're talking about that many people in that big a building."
Crews were called to the large three-story building about 12:15 a.m., Hickmon said, finding it engulfed in flames. Fire was visible then on two of the floors and it quickly moved into the attic, burning the roof and causing it to collapse in on itself, he said.
At least 34 units are believed to be destroyed with others suffering water and smoke damage. In all, at least 130 people were evacuated from the building.
Among them was 82-year-old Howard Eichenbaum, a resident of the complex for 8 years who was rescued from his third-floor balcony by firefighters who helped him down a ladder.
Eichenbaum said he looked back once on the ground and saw flames shooting about 40 feet into the air.
"It was the worst fire I've ever seen," he said.
Hickmon said it's unclear what caused the blaze, though investigators were looking carefully at a trash chute where it may have started. Three investigators were on scene combing the wreckage Thursday morning.
Some residents reported smoke inhalation and were treated on scene, Hickmon said, but no one was transported by ambulance to the hospital from the complex.
Dorothy Payne, 74, who along with Eichenbaum was at a Red Cross shelter set up at a nearby church Thursday morning, said she fainted from smoke inhalation after being carried by fire crews out of her residence.
"Five more minutes and we might not have gotten out because of the smoke," she said. "The firemen were just life-savers. They were just life-savers."
Brigette Williams, a spokesman for the Red Cross, said about 25 residents were in the shelter at Calvary Baptist Church Thursday morning.
Fire crews from neighboring cities including North Little Rock, Sherwood and Benton were called in to cover Little Rock stations while local crews responded to the apartment fire, Hickmon said.