Passerby goes home to get ladder, returns to rescue residents from apartment fire

There’s not much left of Mira Lagos apartment building in Bradenton after a massive fire Monday morning.

Dozens of people were able to get out thanks to some quick-thinking heroes.

Many of the people who live there said they woke up to screams and bright flames filling the darkness.

Neighbors worked together to get everyone out. A passerby, on his way to work, stopped to help.

Resident Tiara Baity said she woke up to a woman’s piercing scream.

“The building was literally engulfed in flames,” Baity said. “At one point fireballs were all over the parking lot because of the wind picking up the flames and spreading it.”

Flames quickly spread through the building as families rushed to get out.

“We went through the back door and bust through the net,” said resident Valincia Golfin. “Our neighbors were trying to have their kids jump down from off the second floor and we were helping them catch the kids and waking people up from their apartments.”

Golfin and others knocked on doors and called out to neighbors.

Walter Rivas was on the way to work he spotted the flames. He turned around, went home and got his ladder.  

“The apartment was already filled with smoke. It occurred to me to come back to the house quickly and retrieve it. And I took it quickly to the apartment,” Rivas said.

He didn't think twice. He pulled a family of three to safety and then kept going.

“With the other apartments, I started knocking on them. Knocking, to have them come out,” Rivas said.

More than 20 people escaped without any injuries as crews put out hot spots.

Everyone from buildings 19 and 20 have to find a new place to stay. They could be out of the complex for days or even longer.

Neighbors are now working to gather donations and help the families who lost everything.

The state fire marshal is investigating.