AUGUSTA — Thirty people were left homeless and five were injured after a fire broke out Saturday morning at a city apartment building, destroying the structure and drawing crews from across the region.

Firefighters were responding to a blaze early Saturday morning at a 12-unit apartment building on Malta Street. The initial call came in at 4:54 a.m. Saturday.

Augusta fire Chief Roger Audette said the 12-unit building at 36 Malta St. housed about 30 people and was “lightweight constructed,” meaning that it burned quickly.

Initial responders immediately began rescuing tenants, using ladders to gain access to the second and third floors. Audette said five people were injured, with three being taken to the hospital.

He said one person jumped from a window to escape the fire.

“(Crews) spent the bulk of their initial arrival here making sure that everybody was out,” Audette said. “Because of that, the fire got extremely big because they were rescuing people.”

Bob Ferreira talks about getting him and his family out of the burning apartment earlier on Saturday at 36 Malta St. in Augusta. “When I opened the door to the hallway, it was black (with smoke). I could not see, even down the stairs,” he said. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Shortly after 8 a.m., it appeared that firefighters had put out the flames, though the building’s roof had collapsed. Around 9 a.m., firefighters on a ladder truck were peeling back charred parts of the building to gain better access to the top of the building.

Bob Ferreira, who lived on the building’s second floor, said his wife burst into the bedroom while he was sleeping and alerted him to the fire after she heard the alarm. He said he and his wife were able to get their baby and their 4-year-old child out safely.

“When I opened the door to the hallway, it was black (with smoke),” Ferreira said. “I could not see, even down the stairs.”

Ferreira said he went back into the apartment after everyone was safe to retrieve jackets and a computer that had a number of family photos on it.

Audette said it was too early to tell what sparked the blaze, but the Office of the State Fire Marshal is investigating.

City Councilor Kevin Judkins, who was on scene, said the city and the Red Cross were working to get whatever aid was needed to those who were affected by the fire.

“The folks that need shelter will have rooms at the Comfort Inn,” Judkins said. “There will be a rundown with each individual for which resources they need.”

Smoke and steam drift up through the collapsed roof at a 12-unit apartment building fire Saturday morning at 36 Malta St. in Augusta. Authorities said the fire displaced 30 people and injured five people. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Red Cross spokesperson Ann Kim said the organization was helping 23 people displaced by the fire. She said that figure may increase as the organization attempts to make contact with other affected residents.

Crews arriving on scene reported heavy fire throughout the apartment building as firefighters worked to rescue civilians. A second alarm for the fire came around 7:40 a.m., drawing crews from neighboring Winthrop, Togus, Chelsea, Vassalboro, Manchester, Hallowell and Gardiner departments as well.

Audette said some residents reported that their pets were missing as a result of the fire.

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