CINCINNATI — Seven people were hospitalized and several people -- including a firefighter -- were treated on scene after a massive fire broke out at a Paddock Hills apartment complex Sunday night, according to authorities.
The fire reportedly originated on Park Lane Apartments' third floor, but first responders said it spread to other floors and smoke damage was extensive in some apartments.
Crews put out a mayday call after a firefighter's mask became dislodged, Cincinnati Fire Department Chief Roy Winston said.
"They got him into the stairwell, he was treated on the scene," Winston said. "He's been released back to duty as well."
Chief Winston said the fire spread down the hallway and quickly spread to other apartments. He estimates they rescued about 20 residents, transported seven to hospitals and treated six more on the scene.
"We had a number of victims who had trouble getting out," Winston said. "A lot of them had to shelter in place just because they couldn't get out ... I think some of the residents were assisted by neighbors, which definitely helped us out."
Residents said events could have transpired differently if so many neighbors had not thought quickly and helped one another escape. Some residents even created a human chain to carry out neighbors in wheelchairs, since the elevator was unavailable.
"Two to three people carrying a wheelchair down there with a person in there," said Cheryl Dennis, a five-year resident of the building. "Everybody banded together in a time of emergency. And this is an emergency, I've never seen anything like this."
Residents also took to the hallways, banging on doors and sounding the alarm throughout the building to help neighbors get up and get out.
"When things like this happen, no matter what color, creed, or where you're from, people have to start helping each other," said Damon Nelson, a resident in the building. "We're all in the same predicament."
Firefighters brought some residents out through windows and down ladders.
Winston said he's hopeful to get most of the residents back into their apartments. They're ventilating the building to alleviate the smoke damage in some apartment units, but residents who live on floors other than the third and fourth floors have already been allowed back into their homes.
The investigation is still ongoing, and there is no word yet on what started the fire.
Officials said about 37 people were displaced. The American Red Cross is providing assistance to those residents.