Dozens displaced after apartment blaze in Whitemarsh Twp.

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Three people were taken to the hospital after an apartment blaze in Whitemarsh Township, Montgomery County. (WPVI)

Three people were taken to the hospital, several had to be rescued, and dozens remain out of their homes after an apartment blaze in Whitemarsh Township, Montgomery County.

The fire broke out before 1:00 a.m. Wednesday on the 400 block of South Bethlehem Pike.

Firefighters arrived to find flames showing on the second and third floors of the 4-story Washington Towers apartment complex.

Flames were also showing in the rear of the building.

"Everyone was screaming, and . . . our first priority was to save our lives," resident Vidhin Shah told Action News.

First responders and neighbors worked to get people off the balconies.

"People were handing people down that were on the second floor," said resident Kyle Rooney. "I don't know for what reason. I don't know if there was smoke up there, little children or whatever. But they were handing people down."

"Police started rescues," said Whitemarsh Township Fire Chief Scott Lynch. "They got the people off the first floor balconies and through the basement windows. We had people attempting to jump from the second floor."

Firefighters used ladders to rescue other residents from the upper floors.

The fire started in apartment B-2, a corner unit. Of the five people in that apartment, three were taken to area hospitals.

Two residents went to Abington Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

A third was taken to Temple University Hospital for smoke inhalation. All had been treated and released by noon.

It took fire crews about an hour and a half to get the blaze under control. The building suffered heavy smoke and fire damage.

The cold conditions made it tough for firefighters and displaced residents. Many residents fled without warm clothing. They were able to gather in an adjoining building that is being renovated.

Many of the displaced residents were taken to area hotels. The Red Cross was on the scene assisting two families.

It was not clear when residents would be allowed back into the apartments that escaped fire, smoke or water damage.

Fire officials said it could take some time to determine exactly what sparked the blaze.

Investigators' work is being slowed by the amount of damage to the building. Part of a 3rd floor apartment collapsed into B-2. The fire started in a bedroom of B-2.

"Two people in the bedroom," said Fire Chief Lynch. "It was occupied. Two elderly people in the bedroom. In the next room over, in the other bedroom, there was a younger couple. They were alerted by the screaming and the words, 'Fire!'"

Resident Kyle Rooney told Action News that this is the second time in as many months that fire has broken out at the complex.

Officials told Action News there were building code issues with the property in the past, but about a year ago the owner brought the building back up to code and put in new fire alarms.

Those fire alarms, they say, are the reason that many residents did wake up and were able to make it out safely.
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