ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Twelve families won’t be spending the night at home because of a massive fire that tore through a Northeast Heights apartment complex this afternoon.
No one was injured and the fire department credits that to a man who was driving by when it started.
The big fire ended up torching two buildings at the Mountain Run apartment complex on Eubank and Juan Tabo. In all Albuquerque Fire says it destroyed eight individual units and caused smoke damage in four units.
The fire caused a sense of panic for hundreds of people who live in the 35 building complex. Flames erupted from one building and quickly spread to a neighboring building and with flames threatening to engulf nearby buildings, the fire could have been a lot worse.
“If we wouldn’t have gotten that fire knocked down on the next building, that exposure as we call it, we could have had the whole complex go up on us,” said Battalion Chief Robert Hartley.
Rand Stewart was heading to work when he saw smoke billowing and realized there were no firefighters at the apartment complex yet so he stopped at the apartments.
“I saw a lot of smoke behind that shopping center,” said Stewart.
Stewart saw smoke and flames but no firefighters.
“When I saw that there was nobody there, my immediate thought was I hope those people are out and I can’t just sit there and hope, I had to make sure,” said Stewart.
He jumped into action with nearby maintenance workers and started pounding on doors to get people out. Stewart says one lady didn’t believe there was a fire.
“And she was like, ‘oh okay’ and then she closed her door, and then we were like, “hello?!” and so we beat on her door again and we were yelling you need to get the bleep out!” said Stewart.
Witnesses say the flames were intense.
“I’d say they were probably about 15 feet,” said Aaron Rovison, who watched the fire from the nearby shopping center’s balcony.
Shannon Pereira says her fiancé ran out of the building as the fire roared.
“A fireball came out of all the windows in the apartment next door to ours and shot across into our apartment and out of our apartment,” said Pereira.
AFD says everyone made it out without getting hurt. The fire has displaced 12 families though, who are now getting help from the Red Cross.
Pereira is one of the people who lost everything.
“I have nothing, I’m still in shock, I don’t have anything, I have nothing left,” said Pereira.
Many are thankful though, including Pereira, that everyone was able to get out. Even pets were saved.
“I have my doggies and my fiancé,” said Pereira.
AFD says Rand is a big part of that help. But Rand says it was just the right thing to do.
“I just wanted to make sure people were okay, I was there, so I innately have a responsibility if I’m there to do something about it,” said Stewart.
AFD is still investigating the cause, but they do know it started on the second floor of one of the buildings. Twenty-five firefighters had the fire under control in 45-minutes.