A fire raged for more than an hour Thursday morning at a house west of downtown Fort Wayne, destroying two separate apartments and displacing the families who lived there.
Firefighters responded to the house, in the 100 block of Mechanic Street, at about 8:30 a.m. and found heavy smoke and flames, said Stacey Fleming, a Fort Wayne Fire Department spokeswoman.
Crews were still fighting active flames after 9:15 a.m., and thick smoke continued to belch from first- and second-floor windows. Firefighters climbed ladders and used chainsaws to cut holes in at least two spots in the roof to release heat and allow flames to escape from the roof instead of spreading further through the house.
According to a Fort Wayne Fire Department news release, investigators ruled the fire an accident caused by "improperly discarded smoking materials." Authorities deemed the heavily damaged house uninhabitable and had it razed.
No one was hurt in the fire, but one resident, Adria Johnson, reported that her two cats were missing. The pets had not been found as of noon Thursday.
The house was split between two apartments: A two-story home in the front of the house, which faces east, and a single-story residence in the back. It was unclear which apartment the fire started in.
As fire crews fought the blaze, Johnson stood down the street, sobbing as she watched her home and possessions burn.
"It's all gone in a matter of minutes," Johnson said. "I'm just in so much shock right now."
Johnson said she lived in the two-story front apartment with her two children and two cats. She said that she left the home at about 8:15 to take her children to school. When she returned, she found the house ablaze and firefighters already there, she said.
Firefighters had the blaze under control in 1 hour and 23 minutes, according to the department news release.
Johnson said authorities had notified the local American Red Cross, which aids fire victims.