NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A group of single mothers said they lost everything tonight as a fire destroyed their apartment in Hollygrove.
New Orleans fire officials said the fire started around 6:30 p.m. near the intersection of Palm and Cambronne streets.
The two mothers we spoke with say there was no warning before the fire broke out. Fire crews scrambled, but with flames engulfing the apartment by the time they arrived, a lifetime of possessions melted and burned in a matter of minutes.
"We have nothing but the clothes on her back, that's all we got," said fire victim Teresa Carias.
Carias said she and two other single mothers and their nine children lived together inside one unit in the four-unit apartment. Just after 6:30 p.m., she scrambled to save her belongings as the fire fell through her ceiling. She ran to safety and then watched from a distance as the building collapsed.
"We have no family here," Carias said. "We were raised in foster care and we don't have any family, so we are three women living together and raising our kids and this is what happened to us today. I don't even know what to do. It's a lot of kids. We have school uniforms for nine kids and we have nothing."
"Came to move in with them two months ago, and we don't have anywhere to go," said Ruby Martinez.
New Orleans firefighters stopped the fire from spreading to nearby homes and apartment complexes, and no one was injured in the fire. But electronics and clothes that were pulled out to the front porch by the mothers were soaked and ruined from the water used to put out the flames.
"We'll get through it together," Carias said. "And our children will be okay because that's what's most important through all of it. I don't know how we're going to do it, but God will see us through."
Right now, however, it's hard to say what the next step is for the families.
"I can't even say anything," Martinez said. "It's like it's a hard question to answer because if I had to answer I would tell you. But we don't know."
The New Orleans Fire Department released the following:
"On Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 6:37 p.m. the New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD) received a 9-1-1 call reporting a residential fire in the 3500 block of Cambronne St. Dispatched at 6:37 p.m., the first NOFD company arrived on the scene of 3521 Cambronne St. at 6:42 p.m. and found heavy smoke and fire already through the roof of an occupied two-story, wood-framed four-plex. Upon arrival firefighters immediately began a primary search of the uninvolved parts of the structure. Taking into account the occupancy of the structure and the level of involvement upon arrival, a second-alarm was called in at 6:50 p.m. It was determined through interviewing residents that everyone was accounted for and had escaped safely. Upon realizing everyone was out and observing the imminent collapse of the building's roof, firefighters transitioned into defensive fire ground tactics. Fire Operations Command personnel decided to "surround and drown" the fire, applying copious amounts of water from all sides, even incorporating a ladder truck's aerial to saturate what remained of the roof from above.
"In all thirteen NOFD units carrying thirty-nine Fire Operations personnel were used to bring this incident under control at 7:25 p.m. Although the cause of the fire has yet to be determined and is still under investigation, the fire is believed to have begun somewhere on the second floor. Four families, totaling 30 people in all (12 adults and 18 kids), were displaced by this fire. Thankfully there were no civilian or firefighter injuries reported during the mitigation of this incident. The American Red Cross was dispatched to assist all those displace with their immediate housing and clothing needs. Although everyone escaped safely, it must be noted that there were no working smoke alarms in this four-plex. In all probability this may have contributed to a delayed detection and may explain the fire's intensity upon NOFD arrival. The New Orleans Fire Department would like to take this opportunity to once again relay this important public safety message. WE SUPPLY AND INSTALL 10YR SMOKE ALARMS FREE OF CHARGE TO ALL RESIDENTS OF ORLEANS PARISH. Our goal is to make sure every home and every family in the City of New Orleans is protected. All residents in need of smoke alarms are urged to call the New Orleans Fire Department at 504-658-4714 or make your request online at www.nola.gov/nofd."