KENOSHA – Officials in Kenosha are investigating an afternoon fire that trapped residents on the second floor and sent four people to the hospital.
The fire broke out just before 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Southcrest Apartments, located near 85th Street and 22nd Avenue in Kenosha.
Kenosha Fire Chief Charles Leipzig says the fire started on the first floor of the building and quickly spread through an open stairwell to the second floor.
"Listening to the call on the radio, you could tell it was dire," he said.
Several crews were nearby at the time and able to respond quickly to the scene.
When they got there, a few residents were considering jumping out of the second floor windows, but other neighbors and firefighters stopped them, using ladders instead to get them to safety.
"We had a woman trapped in a bathroom in one of the back apartment units," said Leipzig. "She was able to roll a wet towel under the door to keep the smoke from coming in."
Mary Metcalf says she was that woman.
"I saw black smoke coming under my door," she said. "I opened the door and I heard this man say 'help me, help me.'"
There was so much smoke she decided to go to her bathroom instead and call 911. At first she said she started panicking, but the 911 dispatcher helped calm her down.
"I wet my rug, put it on the bottom of the door, and took a towel washcloth, put it on my face so I wouldn’t have to breathe that dirt," she said.
About five minutes later, she says firefighters came to her door and escorted her out. She went to the hospital as a precaution.
"We practice for this sort of thing," said Leipzig. "If it weren’t for the quick actions for our crews, the other crews responding, we would have certainly had more injuries or casualties."
The cause of the fire is still under investigation but Leipzig says there's extensive damage to the building.
Karen Norris says her daughter lives in the building but she didn't know if she was home when she saw the smoke. Her daughter ended up being at work at the time, but did lose most of her belongings.
"It’s just a very frightening thing to see that close up when you know you have a loved one that could have been there," said Norris.
Vernon Elementary School opened as a temporary shelter for residents that were displaced by the fire. The American Red Cross responded to help find a place to stay for those who need it.
There are 16 units in the building. Leipzig says it's an older building that did not have a sprinkler system.
TODAY’S TMJ4 has a crew at the scene and will continue to update this story as new developments come in.