SILVER SPRING, Md. — A huge fire affecting three garden-style apartments has left a couple dozen people without a home in Silver Spring, forcing them to shelter in a nearby library on Sunday morning.
In frigid temperatures, firefighters battled the blaze and rescued residents of the Flower Branch Apartment complex on Garland Avenue off Arliss Street around 4 a.m. No injuries were reported.
Neighbors say it was a massive fire - at one point there were 85 firefighters on scene.
The complex hit by Sunday's blaze was rocked by a natural gas explosion that killed seven people and injured nearly 70 others in 2016.
Sunday's fire primarily affected three apartments on multiple floors, and many people had to be rescued off balconies as the fire raced through the hallway.
The fire started in the living room of a second-floor apartment. The apartment's resident was in his bedroom at the time and could not get out. He jumped from the second-floor window to escape the blaze.
The cause of the fire was ruled to be accidental and likely started with a candle left burning on a plastic storage bin in that second-floor apartment's living room. Damage is estimated to be $375,000. The fire department said that the smoke alarms at the apartments were functional.
The Red Cross of the National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region is currently assisting around 50 individuals, including more than a dozen children, the chapter said on Saturday afternoon. Red Cross disaster workers are supporting Montgomery County efforts to safely house the displaced residents by providing food, health services - including the replacement of medications - and mental health support.
"A lot of folks in several floors could not get out because the hallway was blocked by fire and smoke so firefighters did remove a number of people by balcony ... by ladder," said Chief Spokesperson for Montgomery County (MD) Fire & Rescue Pete Piringer. "Fortunately, no injuries. Of course, the temp was in the teens, maybe single digits."
Residents were taking temporary shelter at the Long Branch Library and are staying out of the cold but nearly everything in the apartments that caught fire has been destroyed.
Councilman Tom Hucker tweeted that displaced residents were provided breakfast and will be relocated to area hotels.
"We’re very fortunate we didn’t have any injuries to civilians or firefighters but nonetheless it was a pretty decent firefight," Piringer said. "They were able to knock down the fire pretty quickly but it did cause some pretty extensive damage."
Piringer estimated damage to the building would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but "miraculously, no injuries to firefighters or civilians."