SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WANE) -- Darren McNair awoke this morning to a telephone call from a cousin telling him his Park Jefferson apartment building was on fire.
McNair, 22, and a friend, Lindsey Johnson, 18, quickly fled the building with just the clothes on their backs.
They saw high flames shooting from the building as they ran.
"I have my phone and nothing else," McNair said about 7:45 a.m. in the apartment complex clubhouse.
Shortly after firefighters arrived, the blaze spread to at least three more sections of the complex -- that equates to more than 30 apartments.
Residents evacuated as the result of the huge fire gathered in the clubhouse, where Red Cross workers were interviewing them to assess their immediate needs.
All units appear to have been successfully evacuated. No injuries have been reported.
"I never thought I would lose everything," said Johnson, who was sitting in a daze on a staircase in the clubhouse. She is visiting from Kalamazoo and many of her belongings were in McNair's apartment.
She said they saw flames and walked through a cloud of smoke to exit the apartment building.
"I just spent $800 on textbooks, and I had a laptop and a Play Station," said McNair, an Ivy Tech Community College student. He's from Illinois, and expects he'll have to return to Chicago to get a new ID card and other documents.
"At 6:30, somebody banged on our door," resident Arneesha Butler said.
She and Pierre Jackson managed to flee their apartment. Jackson grabbed a laptop computer on the way out.
The large apartment complex has been the scene of previous blazes. A fire in October gutted eight units in Park Jefferson. A stove fire at Park Jefferson in December 2010 caused eight apartments to be evacuated. In 2009, the apartment complex clubhouse burned to the ground.
Butler said her lease is up at the end of this month and she plans to move. "I pay too much rent and there have been too many fires," she said.
Today's fire burned a series of connecting apartment buildings along Jefferson Boulevard, in the southeast part of the complex.
Jefferson Boulevard and nearby streets are blocked off. Motorists are asked to avoid the area.
The South Bend fire chief says that a firewall system is not implemented into the complex. This means, there is nothing that can prevent flames to spread from unit-to-unit.
The principal of McKinley Elementary is on scene, searching for families with students of the school. The school is offering food and shelter for affected families.
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