BELLEVUE, Wash. - The Red Cross assisted 23 residents with temporary shelter and food following a fire at a three-story apartment building fire in Bellevue Tuesday night.
When KIRO 7's first crew got to the scene of the fire at the Newporter Apartments, massive flames could be seen exploding out of the roof and third floor of the apartment building.
Firefighters heard reports of people shouting from the upper windows that they couldn't get out of the apartments located at 5900 119th Avenue S.E .
Firefighters told KIRO 7 they don't know if the residents were blinded by smoke or too frightened to move, but rescuers were able to get everyone down to the street safely.
Nicole Vanse, a resident of the building, heard an alarm and thought it was coming from her own apartment.
"I was, like, why is my alarm going off?" Vanse said.
Vanse escaped with her son but she went back inside because her son wanted her to get his pet fish.
"We came outside and he insisted on his fish so then I had to go upstairs and get the fish because he insisted on it," she said.
Other people who got out got help at a nearby church.
No one knows how the fire started but firefighters had to wage hand-to-hand combat to get it under control. Tenants were grateful the alarms were working.
"We were about to eat dinner and then the alarms went off. All the neighbors started panicking, so we left," said another displaced resident.
Firefighters said the most tense moments came when they weren't sure if everyone had escaped the fire.
Bellevue Fire Department's Troy Donlin said the possibility someone was still inside was the worst case scenario with a large building without sprinklers.
"It's a big fire challenge for us," he said. "We know there's a lot of fire in the attic space. It's through and through and side to side of the building," he said.
The first fire crew on the scene took one look at the flames and called for other units to back them up. About 60 people were looking for shelter when the Red Cross arrived.
One apartment sustained heavy fire damage. Several other units had smoke and water damage.
No one was hurt in the fire.