OCALA, Fla. -

An apartment fire that originated in a kitchen resulted in 72 senior citizens being evacuated from a four story building for more than one hour, Ocala firefighters said.

Firefighters said the blaze was held in check by a fire sprinkler system that activated, until they could arrive to investigate.

“The smoke was very thick inside the building on the top floor on arrival of firefighters, and that prompted the evacuations. The evacuation went well although it was labor intensive for firefighters as each apartment had to be checked and several of the residents were handicapped and in wheel chairs” said Battalion Chief Scott Bolton. 

Two of the elderly residents were checked for smoke inhalation by paramedics, however they declined to be transported to the hospital, firefighters said.

The fire occurred on the fourth floor, and firefighters quickly extinguished the remaining fire and stopped the flow of water from the sprinkler system, officials said.

Firefighters said after clearing smoke from the building residents were allowed back into the building a few minutes after 9 a.m.

The American Red Cross was contacted to assist management in finding alternate housing for six residents who were not able to return as a result of fire or water damage.

Firefighters remained on scene for more than two hours removing water from the building and assisting the residents, officials said.

Ocala Fire Rescue responded at 8:03 a.m. and arrived five minutes later. The fire was placed under control 40 minutes later. Twenty firefighters responded to Heritage Oaks of Ocala, located at 2820 Southwest 34 Street.