LARGO — Olga Miladinovic heard a whistle about 3 a.m. Wednesday but couldn't figure it out. Then her boyfriend went outside and saw smoke.
Their building at the Belleair Oaks condominiums was in flames. The whistle was the fire alarm.
"I didn't even grab my things," she said. "My mom was my main concern."
Miladinovic, 32, ran from her first-floor condo upstairs to her mother's place. But thick black smoke forced her to her knees. She went back downstairs, where she called her mother on the phone and told her to get out.
Nina Miladinovic, 61, said she grabbed her Yorkie, Moose, and opened the door to smoke "so hard and thick on my face I couldn't breathe." So she covered her face with a towel before feeling her way out.
About 30 residents of the complex on West Bay Drive were left homeless after a three-alarm fire ripped through their building.
Largo fire Chief Michael Wallace said firefighters responding to a report of a porch fire found the unit's roof ablaze.
Firefighters focused on evacuating residents, who cried as their homes went up in flames.
More than 60 firefighters battled the fire for nearly two hours, cutting a trench in the roof to stop the blaze from spreading. Wallace said the fire, presumably started by a discarded cigarette, spread through a common attic that did not have fire walls.
The building, constructed in 1970, was up to code and was not required to have sprinklers, Wallace said. Each unit had fire alarms.
One resident, 81-year-old Wilma Bayer, suffered a broken shoulder, hurt her back and breathed in smoke during the fire. She was taken to Sun Coast Hospital in Largo.
No one else was hurt. But five units were destroyed, Wallace said, and the 16-unit building won't be habitable for months.
"It appears that the building will end up being demolished and … will have to be rebuilt," said Debbie Reinhardt, an owner of Resource Property Management, which manages the complex.
Times staff writer Jon Abel contributed to this report. Jackie Alexander can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4167.