Uncontrollable California apartment fire displaces 300, injures three

KABC-TV(LOS ANGELES) -- Nearly 300 Los Angeles County residents evacuated their homes Thursday after an uncontrollable blaze erupted from an apartment complex unit and quickly spread throughout the entire building, authorities said.

The fire began around 3:30 p.m. along a block in Pico Rivera, according to ABC Los Angeles station KABC-TV. The fire is reportedly believed to have started inside a vacant room on the third floor of the complex and then spread throughout the remainder of the sprawling H-shaped structure.

Building tenant Jesse Aguilar, who witnessed the fire’s eruption, said he attempted to battle the flames with a fire extinguisher.

"By the time I got there, the flames were already too much,” he told KABC-TV. “I saw the whole side of the wall just catch on fire. I started spraying the fire extinguisher on it, and it was just too much. After I did that, the ceiling came down, and when it came down, that's when the fire department told me to evacuate.”

Aguilar alerted other residents, he said, telling people to evacuate in order to spare them from the fast-moving fire.

Two people were transported to a nearby hospital to receive treatment for smoke inhalation, and a firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion, authorities said.

About 220 firefighters were on the scene working to quell the flames and save as many units as possible. At least 45 units were damaged by smoke and fire, and 141 units lost power or sustained other damages, according to authorities.

Residents displaced by the fire recounted the chaos they witnessed while scrambling to flee to safety and salvage all they could.

Tenant Rachael Cervantes, who fled with her family, said, “As soon as we opened the door, the smoke started coming into our apartment. We didn’t have time. We didn’t know what to do. We just grabbed our dogs and got out of there.”

As the hundreds of displaced residents begin an effort to rebuild their lives, shelters in the Pico Rivera area have opened their doors to provide refuge and gather donations.

The cause of the fire is unknown and remains under investigation, KABC-TV reported.

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