MOUNT AIRY, OH (FOX19) - Twenty-one people were displaced by a two-alarm apartment fire that caused $200,000 in damage and sent five to the hospital early Monday, Cincinnati fire officials said.
Fire crews responded to reports of flames shooting from a three-story brick building at Towerplace Apartments in the 2600 block of West North Bend Road just before 3:30 a.m.
They received reports en route that some residents were jumping from windows.
"We heard screaming in the hallway," said Zeus Pates, 38, a former combat medic in the U.S. Army who is staying with a friend in an apartment building across the parking lot from the one that caught on fire.
"I opened the door. I saw flames from the bottom floor to the top, from the garden apartment to to the third floor," he recalled at the scene.
"I ran across the parking lot and I yelled out as soon as I came out 'Who's still in the building!' I calmed some people down. I saw a lady about to jump from the third story balcony. The people on the bottom floor told me 'There's a dog on the third floor.' They said someone could possibly be on the third floor."
Pates said he and other residents yelled "Jump!" to the woman on the balcony because they could see flames in the apartment behind her.
Just then, he said, firefighters arrived and quickly rescued her.
"They were quick as hell," he said, "and I'm from Chicago and they were very, very polite."
The five residents taken to the hospital are considered in stable condition, fire officials said.
The bulk of the blaze on the third floor was reported knocked down by 3:42 a.m.
A Metro bus was summoned to shelter evacuated residents from the bitter cold.
Temperatures are in the teens this morning with single digit wind chills.
The American Red Cross responded to assist a total of eight families from eight units: 13 adults and eight children.
The fire started on either the second or third floors, said District 3 Fire Chief Randal Freel.
The cause remains under investigation.
Pates said he continued to assist at the scene by holding blankets over residents who were freezing in the cold.
He passed out several other blankets, along with coats and shoes.
"There were two handicap people sitting on a mattress under the lady who was about to jump. I got blankets for them," he said. "I was trying to make sure people were warm and calm people down."