MOUNT CARMEL, Pa. -- Flames hit an apartment building in Northumberland County Sunday afternoon.
Tenants were inside the three-story building at the corner of North Maple and East Second streets when the fire broke out just before 3 p.m.
Crews say more than 20 people in the building got out safely, but some pets did not make it out. There were more pets that were taken to a vet to be treated.
Firefighters even used a ladder to help rescue a man trapped on the second floor.
Fire officials say it took more than an hour to get the flames under control after the fire sparked in a first-floor apartment.
Ray Dechert and his family were getting ready to go for a walk when they discovered the fire. Dechert then alerted others in the building they needed to get out.
"They said, 'We smell smoke,' go to the back of the apartment, and it was flooded with smoke. It was thick, so screamed to get the kids out. They grabbed the kids, grabbed animals, ran. I ran through the building yelling at everybody to get out," said Ray Dechert. "I didn't even try for an extinguisher. It was that bad."
Fire officials tell Newswatch 16 the blaze began in a first-floor apartment, but that tenant wasn't home at the time.
"It's under investigation at this time. We have no idea what would have caused the fire at this time," said Chief James Reed, Mount Carmel Volunteer Fire Department
Reed tells Newswatch 16 all the tenants made it out safely, even one tenant who was rescued using a ladder in a second-story window, but not all the pets inside made it out.
"There were numerous cats that made it out and some were attended to by EMS, but we do know there are some cats who perished in the fire," Reed added.
The fire caused so much damage that fire officials told tenants they may not be able to return to their apartments.
"They said some of it's so unstable that we may not be able to," Dechert said.
The American Red Cross is helping the victims of the fire.
A state police fire marshal is expected back on Monday to investigate the cause.
It's not clear if or when the people who lived there will be able to return.