A fire forced about 100 residents from an apartment and condo complex in West Hartford early Thursday morning.
According to fire officials, a call came in around 2:15 a.m. reporting fire on three floors of a building at the Westwood Apartments and Condos.
Nine people had to be sent to the hospital, three of whom were listed in critical condition.
Oakwood Avenue was closed from Kane Street to St. James Street, according to firefighters.
Arriving crews said they saw heavy smoke and fire conditions and had to make several rescues.
"They did take some folks off balconies off the backside of the building because they couldn't get out through the hallways," said Chief Gary Allyn, West Hartford Fire Department.
Firefighters said the location of the fire, which went up three levels, made it difficult for residents to get out because the exits are near the middle of the building.
One resident told Eyewitness News that there are about 40 units in his building and he's thankful he was able to get out.
Another said she needed help.
"I couldn't see anything," said Razia Eabajan, a resident. "I was about to fall from the stairs and the fire department help[ed] us. That was really nice of them."
Eabajan was on the first floor, the level where firefighters believe the fire originated.
"The smoke is all over my kids," she said.
She said she and her husband scrambled to get the children outside.
Officials said the nine people were transported to area hospitals for treatment of smoke inhalation.
The Red Cross was helping the others who were forced out. It opened a shelter at the Elmood Community Center to help. It will remain open overnight.
"We've got CT Transit [that have] brought us over a couple of buses so we could put the people on the buses for now ," Allyn said. "The American Red Cross has been notified and they are coming out as well as building management."
"We do anticipate the shelter will be here overnight. We are encouraging all of the residents, even if you have a place to stay tonight, to come to the shelter so that help access what kind of services we are able to provide," said Stefanie Arcangelo of the American Red Cross.
Arcangelo said the Red Cross has processed at least 15 families, with about 23 adults and 12 children.
Firefighters remained on the scene for much of the day and continued to look for hidden fire in the building's walls.
The cause is under investigation.
Crews said people living in the part of the building where the fire happened may be able to go back inside later in the day to retrieve some of their belongings.
However, it's unclear when they'll be able to live there again.
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