75ºF

Arsonist sought in Cocoa apartment blaze

4 hospitalized, 29 displaced after fire

COCOA, Fla. – An apartment fire forced about 30 people out of their homes and left four others, including a firefighter and police officer, hospitalized.

According to the Cocoa Fire Department, flames ripped through the roof of the Village Green Apartments on Dixon Boulevard early Wednesday morning.

Police body cameras show officers scrambling up stairs to the second floor of a building and the exact moment they thought someone was still trapped inside.

"Debra! We gotta get in there, Debra!" officers yelled. 

Debra is the woman who lives in unit 62. She was nowhere to be found as thick black smoke poured out her doorway.

"We came outside and noticed that Debra's house was smoking, so we tried to figure out if she's in there, so we all started banging on the door, but it started to get hot," said Rose Jimenez, who lives in the building.

"I couldn't hardly see anything and then I saw the firemen on the roof and knocking on everybody's doors," said Beatrice Quinones, who lives next door.

Police were quickly overcome by the smoke, causing one officer to pass out.

"The way the fire got up into the attic and it spread very quickly, the roof over the unit where the fire started had caved in," said Yvonne Martinez, with the Cocoa Police Department.

But it was Debra that was on everyone's mind.

"What's the address to your emergency?" the dispatch officer asked on the 911 call.

"There's smoke coming out of this lady's apartment," the caller said. "She's got some mental issues."

Debra was finally found wandering down the street and was rushed to the hospital for other medical issues.

Neighbors told News 6 she has been known to be rowdy at times.

"We are familiar with her," Martinez said. "She has a history with us for prior disturbances there."

Firefighters said two residents were hospitalized, one for a preexisting medical condition and the other for smoke inhalation.

A police officer and firefighter were also hospitalized for smoke inhalation. They were treated and released.

Officials said 29 residents were displaced by the fire. The Red Cross is currently assisting the displaced families with temporary shelters.

Early estimates put the damage at about $250,000. Police said they think they know who started the fire.

Neighbors said a woman in the building was threatening to set it.

The cause of the fire is unknown.