2 dead after apartment fire in Vestavia Hills

Published: Jan. 15, 2016 at 2:13 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 22, 2016 at 2:14 AM CST
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Source: WBRC
Source: WBRC
Source: WBRC
Source: WBRC
Firefighters broke throught this wall to save five people. Source: WBRC
Firefighters broke throught this wall to save five people. Source: WBRC
(Source: Ryan Phillips/Twitter)
(Source: Ryan Phillips/Twitter)

VESTAVIA HILLS, AL (WBRC) - Two people died after an apartment fire in Vestavia Hills, according to the Vestavia Hills Fire Department.

Officials received the call about a possible fire just before 9 p.m. Thursday at the Vestawood Apartments near Massey and Columbiana Roads. Vestavia Fire Lt. Ryan Farrell said crews were met with heavy fire--most of it from a breezeway of one of the buildings.

Farrell said the bodies of two women were found in separate units. Their identities have not been released.

Some people were rescued. Fire crews broke through an apartment wall to save five people trapped inside one unit.

Others were able to save themselves. Curtis Matthews jumped from his apartment balcony to escape the flames. He said it happened so fast, he left without putting on shoes.

"I seen [sic] a lot of black smoke and fire. When I got out, I had to pretty much jump over the balcony to get out because I couldn't walk down the stairwell to get out. I had to get out. I didn't want to get trapped in the unit," Matthews said.

Farrell said they worked as quickly as they could to make sure everyone was safe.

"We had a large amount of fire in some difficult conditions with so many rescues on our arrival. It takes an emotional toll on us as it does the families. We definitely feel for the families," Farrell added.

Neighbors and witnesses offered to help in any way they could. Ron Gonia just left a meeting at his church near the apartment complex when he saw what was going on.

"We saw the flames and the trucks," Gonia said. "We came over to see what was going on and if we could help in any kind of way--offer any kind of shelter or services to people here who might be in danger."

Eight people, including adults and children, were taken to area hospitals. Farrell says some were transported by emergency crews and the rest appeared to have gone by private vehicle.

Farrell said the Hoover Fire Department and the Regional Paramedical Services assisted in fighting the blaze.

Birmingham Business Journal online editor Ryan Phillips tweeted several photos from the scene showing a large fire.

Phillips said around 9:44 p.m. the fire was smoldering and seemed to be under control. He said he was visiting a friend at the Vestawood Apartments when the fire happened. He credited emergency crews with notifying all of the residents to evacuate and added that most people had returned to their apartments.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Crews will remain on scene to monitor hot spots as needed. The Red Cross is offering assistance for displaced families.

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