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Fire at Little Havana apartment building forces over 40 residents out of their homes

Fire at Little Havana apartment building forces over 40 residents out of their homes
Fire at Little Havana apartment building forces over 40 residents out of their homes 02:52

MIAMI -- More than 40 people were forced to leave their homes when a fire broke out Tuesday night at a Little Havana apartment building, authorities said.

Miami Fire Rescue Department Capt. Ignatius Carroll Jr. said firefighters were called to the building at 44 NW 21st Avenue shortly before 10 p.m. 

The blaze apparently began inside an apartment where a woman was living with five children. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

A fire at a Little Havana apartment building left over 40 people without homes. CBS News Miami

"One woman was treated for possible smoke inhalation but is OK," Carroll said. "We do think this was intentional. This could have been an accident in the kitchen area."

CBS News Miami spoke to Rawad Kemeh, who was visiting from Philadelphia and staying with a friend and his son across the hall from where the fire started.

"We were going to sleep around 9:30 or 10 o'clock when we started hearing the screaming outside, and then we we opened the door (and) all you could see was smoke all over the building," he said. "And we got fire extinguishers from the wall and we tried to put down the fire but we could not do that because all you could see was smoke. You can't see and you can't breathe. It really looked like a nightmare so we got all the kids and cats out of the apartment."

He said the woman who lives in the apartment said she was cooking something in her microwave when the appliance started smoking. 

"It was like a very old microwave and it was a bad microwave," Kemeh said. "I was scared if there were any other kids, pets (or) cats in the building. Everyone is safe. That is the best thing."

Carroll said The amount of smoke from the fire traveled through the building, and affected several apartment homes. 

"This makes us realize there are some important safety tips," he said. "People need to be careful when they are using the kitchen and when they are cooking. Make sure the pots are not reachable by children when cooking. Turn stoves off and make sure nothing is in the stove when you pre-heat them. These accidental fires can be prevented."

The American Red Cross said it was providing emergency aid and temporary shelter to five adults and five children from two families.

Kemeh said he and his friend and his son would be staying in a motel and said the Red Cross would be paying for three nights stay.

He said he was not sure where they would be staying after that.  

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