JEROME -- Massive fire, heavy smoke, and a small explosion has damaged several buildings and displaced dozens of people in downtown Jerome.
Jerome Fire Chief Jack Krill tells KTVB the fire started around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in an apartment building on Main Street.
He says when local firefighters arrived on scene, they tried to break through the doors and glass in the front of the building, and that's when the flames grew stronger.
FIRE BREAKS OUT
"As soon as we did that, the fire grossly increased in size and we had a minor smoke explosion that blew out windows on the second floor of the structure," says Krill.
Krill says nearly 50 firefighters were on scene Tuesday night battling the massive blaze. He says several nearby agencies responded to help out.
First Person Video courtesy Teresay Gilbert Madrano / Facebook.
Strong winds made the fire even more challenging, as flames spread to nearby buildings.
"So we're aggressively trying to contain it to that structure. All the other structures on that block that are connected have at minimum minor smoke and some water damage on the floor, " said Krill, speaking during the fire attack.
Maricela Lara was nearby when the fire broke out. She ran inside the building to warn everyone to get out quickly, saying "but I still ran inside the apartment buildings because I didn't want anybody else to get injured. Me and this lady ran in there real quick to get everyone out."
"Everybody was screaming that the fire started upstairs. We don't know where it started from."
We're told nine families, 40 to 50 people, lived in the apartments on the second floor. Authorities say two businesses on the building's first floor were damaged as well. Winds pushed flames to surrounding buildings, including a cafe.
Ryan Smallwood is a cook at the cafe.
"About four of my waitresses came in and asked me if I smelled smoke," Smallwood told KTVB. "And so we walked out front and went to the building next to us and you couldn't see through the windows. It was hot to the touch. I went in and called the fire department and someone had previously called them. I informed the owners what was going on and got everyone outside the restaurant."
As of Wednesday morning, authorities say all assisting agencies have left the scene, but Jerome firefighters remain. Again, there have been no injuries reported, and the cause is still unknown right now.
Firefighters on scene last night say they didn't hear any smoke detectors or see any sprinklers.
RED CROSS, SALVATION ARMY HELP SURVIVORS
Main Street in Jerome is expected to remain closed Wednesday as authorities continue to work the scene.
As for those living in the apartments, we're told about 30 people are now being housed by the Red Cross. That organization has set up facilities at the fairgrounds. We're told the Salvation Army will help provide meals to those families as well.
Roger Hinton with the Red Cross says, " ... the fairgrounds manager has allowed us to use their facilities over there. We have a multipurpose room with showers in it and it's heated. We're going to be setting up bunks over there for approximately 30 people. The Salvation Army will be in tomorrow to feed meals as long as we need to. We're looking at several days anyway."
For more information on the efforts of the American Red Cross in Greater Idaho, call 208-947-4357.
You can reach the Salvation Army Twin Falls office at 208-733-8720.