VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Firefighters in Virginia Beach responded to a fire that displaced 16 people, three of whom were children.
According to officials, the fire started at the Pembroke Town Center Apartments in the 4600 block of Jeanne Street just before midnight on Thursday.
"I heard a pound on the door. It was bang, bang, bang - someone was trying to break my door down, and it was my neighbor saying the building was on fire," recalled resident James Abeagan.
The first arriving units could see smoke and flames coming from the structure worked quickly to make sure residents were out of the building before they fought the blaze, which was in the attic.
"My son was asleep. By the time I woke him up, all the smoke inhaled in my lungs and I was suffocating. I lost my breath for some time," said Sredvi Nadell.
The Nadell family just moved to the apartment community from India two weeks ago, and they have now lost everything.
"We were just settling in, and then all this happened," Nadell stated.
Officials said because of the size of the fire and because flames had broken through the roof causing structural issues to the building, firefighters had to fight the fire on and off from the interior and exterior of the complex.
"Those men and women are heroes. It looked like they were fighting a heavyweight champion," said Abeagan.
At 1:08 a.m. the fire was declared under control, and 50 minutes after that the fire was marked out.
There were no injuries to civilians or firefighters.
The Red Cross is assisting the displaced residents as needed, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.