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Fire Engulfs W. Miami Apartment Building

WEST MIAMI (CBS4) - Firefighters extinguished a fire on the roof of an affordable housing facility for seniors still under construction in West Miami-Dade Wednesday afternoon.

Smoke and flames spewed into the air from the building on the corner of SW 8th Street and SW 127th Avenue.

Witnesses at the shopping plaza next door captured the scene on their cell phone cameras as firefighters rushed to the scene.

"I saw people running so I went outside and I saw the big smoke," witness Jorge Espinosa said.

"It was very smoky," witness Luis Zarate told CBS 4's Lauren Pastrana "The whole area here was kind of toxic."

More than 100 firefighters and 17 rescue units responded to the unoccupied Gran Via apartment building, according the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Arnold Piedrahita.

"Firefighters could see the smoke and flames from miles away before arriving," Lt. Piedrahita explained.

Piedrahita said the fire started on the roof, when a container of tar tipped over onto highly-flammable roofing materials.

Firefighters used foam to keep the flames from spreading rapidly.

He said they had the fire under control in 40 minutes.

"Because the building is pretty much concrete, the only thing we really had to worry about was fire spreading on the roof. Not anything inside. Walls, furniture, nothing like that," Lt. Piedrahita said. "So this was pretty much ideal for us."

No one was hurt, but some were inconvenienced.

Rush-hour traffic was snarled in the area, and employees at a nearby cafeteria said they had to close their window to keep from inhaling the smoke.

Construction worker Alberto Rodriguez, Jr. said it was an accident.

He said he and his colleagues safely evaucated after trying to put the fire out themselves.

Rodriguez told Pastrana he wasn't scared. In fact, he was ready to continue working.

"God is always in control. Always," Rodriguez said. "Doesn't matter what happens."

A year ago, Miami-Dade County leaders broke ground on Gran Via, a 104-unit affordable housing facility for seniors funded through the county's Building Better Communities General Obligation Bond Program.

This is the second fire in four days at the site.

On Sunday, smoke was seen billowing from the roof.

Lighting was to blame in that instance, according to Piedrahita.

Despite reasonable explanations for both fires, some chalked it up to plain old bad luck.

"The whole thing is kind of spooky to me," Zarate said.

This building is scheduled to open to residents in late October.

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