Fire Destroys 2nd Floor Little Havana Apartment

LITTLE HAVANA (CBS4) – A raging fire ripped through a Little Havana apartment building Thursday, leaving four families displaced.

CBS4’s Chopper4 cameras captured images of flames and smoke belching from the windows of an upper floor apartment in the two story building, as a Miami police officer pounded on downstairs doors, sounding the alarm.

The fire – cause unknown – erupted in the apartment of Isis Fernandez, who was at work at the time, cleaning  a building several blocks away.  She saw the smoke billowing nearby and ran home to discover that it was her home on fire.

“It’s impossible, it’s unbelievable,” a weeping Fernandez told CBS4’s Gary Nelson.  “I work hard cleaning houses and buildings.  That was everything I have.  I have lost everything.”

Neighbors were evacuated from adjoining buildings as a precaution.

“They came and told us and we got out,” said Jonathan Rovelo, who abandoned his apartment along with his assortment of dogs.  “We’re safe.  They took care of the problem and got us out.”

The building owner, Brenda Castillo, who lives next door, was critical of the time it took for firefighters to arrive.

“We called the rescue, but the media got here before the firemen.  The firemen took too long.”

Miami fire Lieutenant Ignatius Carroll said units arrived within four minutes of getting the call.  As for the media beating the fire trucks to the scene, news crews just happened to be right around the corner, covering a shooting.

The Red Cross arrived at the fire scene Thursday afternoon to help the displaced residents, seven adults and one child, with emergency shelter.  While the apartment where the fire began was destroyed, all four units suffered fire or smoke damage, leaving the building uninhabitable.

“I don’t know what I will do.  I just don’t know,” said Isis Fernandez as tears coursed down her cheeks.

To view a slideshow of the fire, click here.

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