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Fire in apartment complex leaves 50 people in the cold

Residents get terrifying wakeup call at 2 a.m.
Posted at 6:21 AM, Mar 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-04 05:23:33-05

FLORENCE, Ky. — Ray Holderby got a terrifying wakeup call when a neighbor pounded on his door at 2 a.m. and told him his apartment building was on fire.

"She says, 'You got to get out of here,’ and I said back to her, 'I can't get out of here until I go to the bathroom, I just woke up,’ " the 77-year-old Holderby said.

A two-alarm fire in the complex on Rio Grande Circle damaged 24 apartments Sunday morning left about 50 residents without a place to stay. The residents could not return to their homes because of the damage. But it could have been worse, said John Black, Florence Assistant Fire Chief.

“It was very fortunate. When we pulled up, that was our initial concern: make sure we get all the people out,” Black said. “We can always fight fire, but we don't want to lose a life."

Two people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries from smoke inhalation.

▪️Two people taken to hospital
▪️24 apartments had flames
▪️Red cross here to help evacuate

Give me a follow on Instagram: jasminenminor ( to see more of the scene. @WCPO

— Jasmine Minor (@jasmineminortv) March 3, 2019

Crews said the fire started in a second-story apartment before spreading to the attic.

Holderby is thankful for his neighbors and first responders who made sure he got out safely.

“My neighbor started pounding on my door and I couldn't imagine what was happening," Holderby said.

"In the building next to ours, it was completely engulfed in flames."

The Red Cross is making sure everyone has a warm place to stay tonight.

Another resident told WCPO she is staying with her daughter right now, but says the uncertainty of her living situation is not easy.

She is thankful, though, for the way the entire community has rallied together to help each other.