Ten people were taken to hospitals after an apartment-house fire in the Silver Spring area , Montgomery County fire department officials said.
Asssistant fire chief Scott Graham said none of the injuries appeared to be life threatening. He said seven of the injured were civilians and three were firefighters. One firefighter was gasping for breath as he emerged from the building, in the 9300 block of Piney Branch Road, said Timothy Smith, who lives in a nearby building.
Smith said he had arrived at the scene in time to see people still in the building, on their balconies.
“I was telling people to run out,” he said.
Another man, who also lives in a neighboring building, said he saw a man he knew on a balcony, and shouted for him to get out. He said the man and his girlfriend “ran all the way down” the stairs, “holding their breath.”
Nevertheless, he said, the man’s girlfriend “inhaled a lot of smoke,” and was apparently one of those taken to hospitals.
The fire was reported about 4 p.m., officials said. By about 6 p.m., it appeared to be under control.
As firefighters arrived at the scene, intense flames were coming from a second-floor apartment balcony. One man was helped down a ladder by firefighters, and others were aided in escaping down the stairs, Graham said.
What appeared to be a mixture of gray smoke and steam was billowing from the flat, square roof of the red brick building for some time after the fire broke out. .
Water from firefighters’ hoses apparently turned to steam in the heat of the blaze.
It was not immediately clear what caused the fire. Graham said that would be investigated.
The site of the fire is just west of New Hampshire Avenue, in a building that was part of a complex of buildings of about five or six stories in height.
At about 6:30 p.m., neighbors stood around in knots, as firefighters continued to spray water hoses on the building, Smith said. “They’re still shooting water,” he said.
Graham, the fire department spokesman, said it appeared that about 80 people would be displaced.
T raffic was shut down on a segment of Piney Branch Road.
This report has been updated.