ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KTVI) - An intense three alarm fire early this morning at an apartment complex near Creve Coeur sends two people to the hospital and leaves behind serious damage.
It all happened at the Oak Forest Apartments on Lindbergh just south of Page. Fire crews got the call a little before 2:30am. When they arrived, they found flames shooting from the building.
"It went fast," said Alan Hollingsworth.
He lived right above the unit where the fire started. Hollingsworth says his girlfriend woke him up screaming.
"I didn`t believe what was going on but when she left the smoke that came in was just a huge, billowing cloud of smoke so I knew something was going on. And when I came out it was just pouring up the stairwell," said Hollingsworth.
Daylight revealed the extensive damage done by the flames-- three units destroyed and two others seriously damaged.
Investigators say the fire started in a second floor unit after the resident fell asleep while smoking a cigarette in bed. Rick Povendo lived directly below that apartment.
"I opened up my front door and it was the gentleman upstairs running down screaming fire, fire! So I ran up into his apartment and I see flames coming out of his bedroom," explained Povendo.
He added about the resident, "and he was screaming it was a cigarette, I fell asleep smoking a cigarette."
"We went up and interviewed the person in that residence and he did confirm yes that he was smoking and that he fell asleep and that he woke up when his hand got hot," said Jerry McQueen, the Deputy Fire Marshal of the Creve Coeur Fire Protection District.
A firefighter and Hollingsworth`s girlfriend were taken to the hospital for minor injuries.
As the clean up started and residents salvaged what they could, many were grateful that no one was seriously hurt.
"I`m intact, we`re intact, so we`ll let the rest work itself out," said Hollingsworth.
Investigators say the resident in the unit where the fire started tried to put the flames out himself but could not. That actually delayed the initial 911 call.
Both people who were taken to the hospital were treated and released. Authorities are ruling the fire an accident.