PARIS, Tex. ― Five people were killed and nearly 30 men are left out in the cold after flames ripped through a Paris, Texas, homeless shelter Monday morning.
Officials say they are still trying to figure out how that fire started and what will happen to those affected.
The men were staying at the Christians in Action Shelter. The shelter allows them to work by providing services to the community, and in return, they have a place to live.
Some men say not only have they lost their home, but also five friends.
Jerry Johnson and at least twenty other men lost their home in a fire that tore through the Christians in Action Homeless Shelter.
Paris fire officials say they responded to the blaze around 3 o’clock Monday morning. They say the fire primarily consumed the southwestern part of the building.
Johnson says he was scared because it all happened so fast.
"I opened my door and smoke come in and liked to choke me, but I managed to get my clothes on, opened the front door and turned around. I looked and seen there was a fire back there," Johnson said.
Paris Fire Chief Ronnie Grooms says the fire took nearly three hours to extinguish, with some of the residents even helping to put out the flames.
Grooms says once crews were able to get inside they found five bodies burned beyond recognition.
Grooms says many of the items in the building were flammable.
"Clothing, they collect a lot of furniture, just goods that they can sort through then give back to other people who are less fortunate, and they have been doing this for years, so it’s not uncommon for them to have a large number of items in the area where the fire started," the chief said.
Fire Marshal Dale Maberry says the fire caused part of the metal roof to collapse. Maberry says it could take weeks to figure out just how the fire started.
"There were 21 potential witnesses that survived. Police are going to do an investigation to find out who was where and who saw what and helping me with that at this time."
Officials say the bodies have been sent to Dallas for an autopsy, and that the men displaced will receive assistance from the American Red Cross and from the first United Methodist Church in Paris.
Two men were treated on the scene for smoke inhalation. They are expected to be okay.