Blaze Guts Apartments

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A three-alarm fire heavily damaged the Avalon Hills Apartments in northwest Omaha Tuesday afternoon. No injuries were reported, though dozens were left without a place to call home.

It broke out at around 2:30 p.m. at 108th and Jaynes, just north of Fort Street, and quickly escalated to a second and then a third alarm.

Heavy smoke and flames poured from the structure as firefighters arrived.

The fire wasn't that easy to put out. "Once the fire broke through the roof the wind started moving it down the building and so we pulled our firefighters out right away, went to a defensive attack,” says Assistant Chief Mark Rohlfing.

A section of 108th Street that runs past the apartments was shut down as firefighters worked to control the fire.

Residents told us that the fire alarms began going off giving them warning of the blaze.

"We were sitting there having lunch after moving in and the alarms went off and my mom thought it might be just a false alarm, someone had pulled the alarm," says resident Kristina O'Connor.

"We walked down the hall, there was black smoke on the entire other side of the wall. So we got our stuff and left. And then the other side was completely on fire by the time we got out here."

"Stepped out on my balcony and you couldn't even see the cars there was so much smoke," says resident Samantha Lane.

"There was a lot of flames, they were just shooting up over the top before they got the little water spout up there and then there's smoke pouring down this way."

"I came outside and saw the fire trucks and all the residents outside and they're out here putting the fire out," says resident Jasmine Butler.

The blaze was largely under control about an hour after it broke out, but crews remained on the scene.

The initial investigation indicates the fire apparently began on the third floor, but the cause was not immediately clear.

O’Connor and her roommate finished moving into their apartment just before the smoke alarms went off. "Everything we own is in there, everything from our entire lives.”

Their apartment is on the same floor and just behind the apartment where the fire started.

“We both work two jobs so we worked hard to get in this apartment, we worked hard to buy everything for that apartment, we bought so much new furniture and everything for that apartment."

For Kristina, and others like her, help and some hope arrived quickly with the Red Cross.

"We will be focusing on the families, trying to ensure they have food, clothing and shelter for the evening and the next couple of days and then also help them find a new place to live," says Dena Howard with the American Red Cross.

It's believed that 12 to 16 apartments were involved to some degree, leaving 45 residents without a place to live.