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Evacuations Ordered Near 5-Alarm Construction Site Fire in Arizona

by Phil Helsel /  / Updated 
This photo posted to Twitter by Gilbert Fire Rescue shows flames after an apartment complex went up in flames Saturday.
This photo posted to Twitter by Gilbert Fire Rescue shows flames after an apartment complex went up in flames Saturday.@GilbertFireDept

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A huge fire erupted at an Arizona apartment complex construction site Saturday evening, blowing embers onto nearby homes and causing the evacuation of residents, officials said.

The fire in Gilbert began at around 6 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET), and swelled to four and then five alarms. The fire ripped through the construction site and around 120 firefighters, including those from neighboring cities, responded.

No nearby homes were burned, Gilbert Fire Rescue Gary Hildebrandt said. By 10 p.m. the fire was no longer spreading. The buildings were three stories tall and in the wood-frame stage of construction, he said.

"With wood frame, it’s going to be exposed wood which is going to burn hotter and faster,” Hildebrandt said. "With the winds kicking up we had a hard time containing it right away."

One firefighter suffered burns to his hands, NBC station KPNX reported.

“There were many embers that were flying into those neighborhoods and going on top of those houses," Hildebrandt said and fire crews worked to protect them.

Images from a KPNX helicopter showed many of the buildings leveled. A reporter with KPNX said eight buildings were burning and seven of those are a total loss.

Gilbert is a city southeast of Phoenix. Firefighters from Phoenix and the neighboring city of Chandler were among the departments assisting in fighting the blaze, Hildebrandt said.

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