TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - A fire destroyed more than a dozen apartments in Tahlequah Thursday morning.
It took the Tahlequah Fire Department and several rural departments to get the blaze at Pleasant View Apartments under control.
Fire officials say it started as a vehicle fire. The car was parked close enough to one of the buildings to catch it on fire.
Firefighters worked throughout the morning to fight flames at the complex, located on Allen Road.
In addition to 16 apartments, about eight vehicles were also destroyed.
According to Scott Youngblood, disaster program specialist with the American Red Cross, 35 people were displaced as a result of the fire. Some are students and faculty from Northeastern State University (NSU) and will get housing there. Others will be relocated to open apartments at the complex. Some will go to local motels. A portion will stay with nearby family or friends, according to Youngblood.
Talris Brown is among the residents seeking shelter with friends Thursday night. He lost everything in his apartment but says things could have been much worse.
"Four or so cars went off like an explosion and everything. It was like a big bomb, like, just went off," Brown described.
Before coming face to face with the massive blaze, Brown says it was a police officer who pounded on his door to get him to move outside to safety.
"As soon as I ran out, the fire started coming all on the top of the ceiling and all this stuff and I was like, wow, they got me out in the nick of time," he said.
Brown, who begins his own firefighter training in Coffeyville, Kan. next month, says this experience only solidified his passion.
"It does inspire me to want to be a firefighter even more, so I'm ready for all my training now."
No serious injuries were reported in the fire, allowing Tahlequah Fire Department Chief Ray Hammons to proclaim victory.
"We won this one. Nobody hurt. Nobody killed, and that's what it's all about," Chief Hammons said.
Hammons says the vehicle that started the fire is now in the possession of the ATF, which is protocol. The ATF will examine the car to ensure that the fire was accidental.