Fire at the Colonial Apartments displaces over 70 residents

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PARIS, Texas (KXII) -- Dozens of people had to be evacuated from a Paris apartment complex after a fire Wednesday night. We spoke with one tenant there who some are calling a hero.

For residents of the Colonial Apartments fortunate enough not to lose everything in Wednesday night's fire like Aurora Hernandez and her son Mauricio, Thursday was spent loading up their remaining possessions.

The fire was called in around 9:30 p.m. and in just minutes the second story of the Northeast section of the complex was up in flames.

"Grease got on fire, spread up through the vent and into the attic. The attic's are common in these apartments in Paris. What we call a common attic, is when there are no fire blocks, so the fire was able to spread to other apartment units. The firefighters got ahead of it and put it down pretty quick, Paris Fire Chief Larry Wright said.

Paris Fire Chief Larry Wright says the power and water to all the apartments had to be cut off to fight the fire.

"Three apartment units were heavily involved in the fire and smoke. Every unit in the apartment had some kind of smoke damage in it. Unfortunately, the power source for the apartment complex is common, for all the units, so we were forced to cut the power, which displaced all the residents of that apartment complex, Wright added.

Management tells us while no one was hurt, the fire has displaced 74 people living in the complex, for at least a week.

Geannie Portwood has lived there for just a month and some are calling the former nurse a hero for alerting residents to the fire.

"I knocked on all the doors on the top, making sure everyone got out and then as I came down these stairs the window blew. So I came downstairs banging on all the doors down here to make sure everybody was out," Portwood told News 12.

She says many of her neighbors she alerted didn't know about the fire.

"There was a lot of people that were asleep already because it was a little after 9:30, so people were already asleep and had no idea what was going on," Portwood exclaimed.

The Red Cross has a shelter set up at the First Baptist Church's Family Life Center, where several of the displaced are staying.

They tell us they'll remain open as long as people need food and shelter.