With an inferno blazing next door, 14-year-old Tyler Grayson ran through his stepsister's adjacent condominium building early Sunday, beating on doors to wake people up and make sure they got out.
By mid-morning, the next-door Building J at the Hidden Cedars Condominium complex in Springfield Township was reduced to mostly a smoldering pile of rubble, leaving 34 people homeless.
"The building was filling with smoke, there were no smoke detectors going off, and, really, no one was leaving," Tyler said. "It was really emotional ... People were coming out half-asleep and in their pajamas, not knowing what was going on."
No one was injured in the blaze that started about 1:30 a.m. The cause has not been determined.
Springfield Township Fire Chief Barry Cousino said firefighters arrived at the complex at 6201 Garden Rd. and found flames coming through the roof of the three-story structure with 18 units.
"When we got here, people were already evacuating, and we started knocking on doors to make sure everyone was out," Chief Cousino said. "We pulled out soon after because part of the building collapsed and we had to do the best we could to keep the adjacent building from catching fire."
The chief Monday morning said they were still investigating the cause.
State Fire Marshal investigators Monday asked that all occupants of Building J, and any witnesses, contact its office at 800-589-2728.
A complete list of occupants is unavailable and investigators are attempting to identify and account for all of the building's occupants.
It took 40 firefighters from the Springfield Township, Monclova Township, and Toledo fire departments three hours to get the fire under control, he said.
Chief Cousino estimated the damage at $2.5 million.
Two adjacent buildings - a separate, multiple-unit condominium structure where Tyler?s stepsister lives and a clubhouse - were in danger of catching fire because of wind gusts, the fire chief said.
The fire departments also evacuated two occupied buildings near the site of the fire. Chief Cousino confirmed that fire detectors did not function in any of the buildings.
James Burda, who lives in nearby Building G, saw flames coming from across the parking lot and didn't waste any time.
"I ran back in, grabbed my two kids, and we got out," Mr. Burda said.
"We were able to go across to another building where my uncle lives and stay there until we could go back home."
The American Red Cross was called to assist displaced residents.
"Surprisingly, they all found family or friends to stay with, and that very rarely happens," spokesman Jodie Tienvieri said.
Sunday was the third major fire in just under a decade to destroy an occupied building in the aging complex.
In February, 2006, two people were hurt in a fire that destroyed a 16-unit building in the complex. The cause was not determined.
Chief Cousino said Sunday's blaze was similar in that it moved quickly through the buildings, which had no fire walls.
"There are no fire stops at all, and once fire gets to the attic, it's very fast and it just traveled," he said.
The complex of 10 buildings was built in 1972. Chief Cousino said there were less stringent construction requirements back then.
On July 7, 2000, a three-alarm fire destroyed a 20-unit condominium building at the complex. All residents escaped unhurt that night.
Although the units are condominiums, he said many are owned by investors who rent them to tenants.