Fire Crews Save Apartment Residents from Balconies During Large Blaze

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AMES, Iowa -- About 80 residents were evacuated from an Ames apartment after a fire broke out about 4:04 a.m. Monday.

Fire crews still battling large flames about 2 hours after the fire started. (WHO-HD)

Fire crews still battling large flames about 2 hours after the fire started. (WHO-HD)

When firefighters arrived at the Oak Ridge apartments, at 301 South Fourth Street, flames were visibly shooting from the roof and windows of the 33-unit apartment complex.

"So without thinking, I just grabbed my phone and started rushing out. I had to run through a hallway filled with smoke. Once I got outside and looked back to see the entire roof on one side was filled with fire," said Ryan Lovan, resident of the Oak Ridge apartments. 

Several residents were rescued from their balconies since the fire spread to the hallway.

Channel 13's Josh Nguyen reports that most residents, between 75 and 80 people, made it out safely. The city is urging all occupants of the apartment complex to report to City Hall in order to verify that every person is safe.

“This was a very scary, very tragic event," said Susan Gwiasda, City of Ames.  "We are looking at ways we can educate people on making sure they have working smoke alarms, making sure they have an exit plan. Of course,  we don’t like responding to things like this.”

An emergency check-in and a temporary shelter have been established by Story County Emergency Management and the American Red Cross at Ames City Hall in the auditorium, located at 515 Clark Ave.

Gwiasda said the last time the city had a fire of this size was five years ago less than two blocks away from Oak Ridge apartments.

“So, a lot of us have probably lost everything,” said Lovan.

West Des Moines-based Professional Property Management owns the building. Keith Denner, president of Professional Property, is working with the displaced residents to find temporary housing. Denner says the residents of the building should be covered as all  the tenants were required to purchase renters insurance before moving in.

Fire crews were still putting out flames hours after the fire broke out. Firefighters will stay on the scene all day, the city says.

The building suffered major smoke and water damage and will likely be a complete loss.

The Nevada Fire Department assisted Ames firefighters.

A cause has not been determined yet. Check back for updates.