The Willows apartment building on Third Avenue suffered heavy fire damage Friday morning.

UPDATED: Mission apartment fire displaces residents

Firefighters were called to an apartment building on Third Avenue

A Third Avenue apartment was destroyed by fire early Friday morning, leaving close to 50 people without homes.

The blaze was not suspicious, said fire inspector Mike Schmidt who took two days to complete the investigation and find the source. He attributed the fire, which originated in unit 16, the top floor on the southeast side, to “human failing.”

The bulk of the fire originated near the sundeck, added Schmidt, estimating damage at about $2.8 million.

“The damage was substantial because of the age of the building,” he said, noting at the time the building was built, attic spaces were not separated by firewalls, which is why the fire spread so quickly.

Numerous residents and their pets had to be rescued from the building, but no injuries were reported.

Mission Fire/Rescue responded to the Third Avenue and Ryan Street fire around 3:15 a.m. and found heavy fire shooting from the roof, said Deputy Fire Chief Larry Watkinson. Several residents were not even aware the building was ablaze, and firefighters had to break down doors to rouse people from their sleep, plus rescue people from balconies.

The 50-year-old building provided limited access to firefighters and didn’t have a sprinkler system. But it did have a fire alarm system which was serviced in January, said Schmidt, and there were smoke alarms in each unit.

The hallway alarm bells were ringing, but because the fire was in the roof, the wires were burned off, Schmidt explained, stressing on the dangers of an attic fire.

“In older buildings like this, early detection is key, which this had,” he added.

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