Fire Engulfs Miami Apartment Building

A massive fire broke out in an apartment complex in Miami on Monday morning, prompting a rescue operation that led to the evacuation of more than 40 residents, some of whom were carried to safety from their balconies, the authorities said.

The fire began around 8:15 a.m. on the third floor of the Temple Court Apartments, a rental complex west of Interstate 95 near downtown Miami, according to Lt. Ignatius Carroll Jr. of Miami’s Department of Fire-Rescue.

The authorities arrived to find one person in the building with a gunshot wound to his torso, said Lt. Pete Sanchez, of the Department of Fire-Rescue. That person was taken to a hospital, he said.

Atlantic Housing Foundation which manages the apartment complex, said in a statement that the gunshot victim is an employee of Temple Court Apartments. It was not immediately clear whether the shooting was related to the fire.

One person whom firefighters rescued from a third-floor balcony was taken to a hospital, as were three firefighters who were being treated for smoke inhalation, Lieutenant Carroll said.

“During the evacuation, there was a loud explosion,” Lieutenant Carroll said, “and we noticed that parts of the roof and the walls seemed to become unstable.” He described the structure as an older building with a wood frame, which he said made it more vulnerable to fire damage.

The fire went to three alarms, which Lieutenant Sanchez said meant that the fire department requested more units, “tripling our efforts.” Mayor Francis X. Suarez of Miami told reporters at the scene that it was the city’s first three-alarm fire in 25 years.

More than 40 firefighting units responded, Mr. Suarez said, adding that firefighters retreated from the building “to fight the fire from the outside in.”

The U-shaped apartment complex, which public records show was built in 1920, has an attic that connects its western, central and eastern sides. That allowed flames and smoke to race through the structure, leaving no open area to fight the fire from the inside, according to Lieutenant Carroll.

About 70 firefighters were still at the scene around noon, Lieutenant Carroll said.

Paula Tabet watched from her window, across the Miami River and just south of the Temple Court Apartments, as firefighters desperately tried to tame a massive plume of brown smoke billowing from the complex.

“I haven’t stopped staring at the fire since it started,” Ms. Tabet, 33, said in an interview. “I’m just shocked.”

Videos taken by Ms. Tabet showed flames and smoke continuing to rise from the building until about 1:50 p.m., more than five hours after the fire started. The video footage showed that firefighters were still spraying water on the building at 2:30 p.m., but the smoke and fire had died down and the sky above the building had shifted from gray to bright blue.

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