A little before 9 a.m. Friday, Analiz Guzman was sitting in her living room with her two children, about to enjoy breakfast.
Suddenly, the fire alarm in her town house went off. She quickly scrambled to gather her mother-in-law and kids, called her husband, Oscar Vasquez, in the basement and ran outside.
In minutes, the entire roof of the seven-unit complex they live in, in the 500 block of Carrollton Drive, was engulfed in flames.
“Thank God we had the fire alarm, and we were all together near the closest place to get out,” said Guzman, 27. “We’re happy that we’re alive.”
Vasquez, 27, said he was working in the basement when the fire started.
The fire started in the northernmost town house at 537 Carrollton Drive, next door to them, he said. Everyone evacuated quickly, but when he tried to go back in to retrieve his keys and other items, it was too smoky.
Both Guzman and Vasquez are happy their family, including 4-year-old Jade and 2-year-old Noah, got out quickly.
“We [lost] everything, but at least we’re safe, that’s most important,” Vasquez said. “In an emergency, you don’t think of material stuff, you just get out of the house and wait.”
Crews were dispatched to the fire just before 9 a.m. Friday, officials said. Frederick County Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Fox said that happened because of the building’s age and wooden structure and roof. State property records indicate the seven town houses were built in 1966.
The building is a total loss, Fox said, adding that he was unsure how many residents were displaced. He said firefighters who arrived first quickly searched all seven homes, and no one was inside.
Roughly 75 firefighters responded to the blaze, Fox said. It took firefighters about two hours to bring the fire under control.
There was a partial collapse in the second-story end unit as a result of the fire, which required firefighters to exit the building and continue their efforts from the outside until the structure was stabilized.
The cause and damage estimate remain under investigation.
Sarah Davis, disaster program manager of the western Maryland chapter of the American Red Cross, said seven families and 18 residents total were displaced because of the fire.
Davis added each family has shelter this weekend and financial support, and the Red Cross is working with local partners like the United Way of Frederick County and Goodwill to determine long-term plans.
Seven Red Cross workers — four at the scene, and three virtually — assisted at the fire Friday, Davis said.
Michele Bowman, a spokeswoman for the Frederick Police Department, said when officers arrived, a Frederick County recycling crew was knocking on doors, trying to get people out. She said the police were trying to identify the members of the recycling crew, but they were “grateful” for their actions.
Sarah Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services, said three firefighters were taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital with minor injuries.
As crews attacked the fire on the roof, two birds were rescued from the complex. One of them was Baby Blue, a female African grey Congo more than 30 years old.
Wendy Sanbower, 53, lives at 530 Carrollton Drive and owns Baby Blue. She’s lived there for about 14 years and was grateful her bird was OK.
“That’s all I was worried about,” Sanbower said, noting that materials are replaceable.
“[I’m] very grateful everybody is alive. That’s what matters,” she said. “These things, you can replace, but [not] human beings.”
Mike Cooper, pastor of South End Baptist Church, called 911 when he noticed smoke at the complex.
Cooper, 54, was handing out water bottles and granola bars to those displaced and dozens of people surveying the scene. Many bystanders were focused on firefighters battling flames on the roof, along with significant damage to the property.
Dispatchers told him that his call was one of roughly half a dozen.
“This was the worst fire I’ve ever seen in my life ... Once it got on those shingles, those shake shingles are like pouring on gas,” Cooper said.
South End Baptist Church opened its doors to affected residents and the Red Cross is also involved in helping. Eric Anderson, executive director of the American Red Cross of western Maryland, lauded Cooper and the church’s efforts.
“We did really want to applaud South End Baptist Church because they were there very quick with their support and ... providing people with a reunification area,” Anderson said.
No matter how much her family lost, Guzman remained positive.
“I’m thankful it was not at night where we were sleeping or I was away from my kids,” she said. “We feel so blessed. It doesn’t matter, material things. I’m glad my kids are OK.”