CLEARWATER — Five people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation and dozens were left homeless after a massive blaze ripped through a condominium complex early Saturday morning, authorities said.
Firefighters were called shortly after 2:30 a.m. to Inverness Condominiums for a report of a multi-alarm fire. The complex, at 2595 Countryside Blvd., is a 55-and-older community near Westfield Countryside mall.
As many as 100 firefighters responded to the scene. They rescued five people from windows and balconies, using ground ladders. A cat also was rescued.
"There was heavy smoke and flames shooting from the building," said Elizabeth Watts, the city's public safety spokeswoman. "Half of the building sustained heavy fire damage, with portions of the roof completely gone."
Firefighters got the blaze under control by 6 a.m., but were monitoring the structure for flareups throughout the day Saturday.
The building is uninhabitable, Watts said. About 30 residents were not able to return to their homes. The American Red Cross placed 10 people from six condominiums in a hotel, spokeswoman Janet McGuire said.
Investigators have determined the cause of the fire was an electrical malfunction. It is believed to have started in a third-floor unit, Watts said.