MARYLAND

Laurel apartment building partially collapses

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The building sits behind yellow crime scene tape. Blue tarps now cover a roofless third floor.

(HCDFRS)

One section of the Country Meadows apartments in Laurel is blackened.

A collapsed wall has left a charred, gaping hole.

The remains of an early morning fire, that awoke terrified residents out of their beds.

"It was all engulfed, from the first floor to the third floor," says Jay Wagner, a neighbor who shot video of the blaze.

"It could've been a lot worse than it is," he says. "Somebody was looking over our people who live there."

Firefighters were called to the 9700 block of Tiger Lily Path around 5:45 Sunday morning. They found the back of one building in flames.

Arriving emergency personnel ran from door to door, ordering people to evacuate.

"Police came and said get out of there now," recalled Simone Kuntz, a second floor resident. "It's a huge fire and then I looked around and said oh my God!"

At least forty residents awoke to the sound of blaring alarms.

They and seventy others in neighboring buildings fled for their lives.

"Open the front door and you could feel the heat," says Rainia McWhirter.

"When I came outside it was nothing but flame. Three hundred degrees, everybody's running and screaming, and making sure everybody's out of the building."

Authorities say everyone got out safely.

But as enclosure crews began working, the now homeless residents reflected on a terrible week.

"You know it's hot outside," says evacuee Kenneth Floanoy. "We just had the power outage and everything like that, and now the power's out again. Pretty tough. Pretty tough."

Days without power. Heat. And now this.

"This should be a wakeup call, " says McWhirter. "You go to bed, and don't know what's going to happen in the next couple of hours."

Laurel fire investigators believe the blaze started in a third floor apartment, but so far have not released an official cause.

The building is considered a total loss. Damage estimates have not been released.

"It was really bad," remarked Kuntz, as she wheeled out a pushcart containing some clothes and family photographs.

"I was praying that everybody got out alive. That was the main thing."

Residents say the Country Meadows management and the Red Cross are helping out with hotel rooms and emergency supplies.

One firefighter was transported for heat exhaustion, another was treated for an ankle injury.

But no residents were injured.

"Just happy no people were hurt," says evacuated resident Romeo Gougue. "It was pretty intense, pretty crazy."

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