RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Eight people are displaced after a group of VCU roommates escaped a two-alarm fire that tore through their home in Oregon Hill.
The fire broke out around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, in the 300 block of South Laurel Street. The flames quickly spread to the home next door, which shares a middle wall. Firefighters say a gas-fueled water heater came into contact with something flammable.
Alex Le, one of the VCU students who lives in the red home where the fire started, says the flames sparked around the water heater in the basement. Le says he's thankful that the four people home at the time got out safely.
"I didn't think anything like this would ever happen to me or my roommates," said Le.
"It just engulfed this whole row, like fire everywhere. Smoke everywhere," said neighbor Robert Briak Peak.
Within three minutes, firefighters arrived to the billowing smoke and flames. Crews used multiple ladders to get to the roof, and they broke through windows to reach the flames.
Le says he was in the shower when he heard a loud pop from the water heater's closet.
"We saw the flames coming out of the closet, basically," said Le.
The three roommates ran out of the house, salvaging whatever they could on the way out.
"By the time I got to the middle level to run out, it was full of smoke, and I couldn't see much anyway," continued Le.
A neighbor next door also made it out, visibly shaken. A pet cat in the home didn't survive.
The back of the house showed intense damage.
"Then when you walked out back, it was just like Armageddon," added Peak, describing the flames.
The 107-year-old homes are now condemned.
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