MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Two people are dead after fire raged through the Saint George Condos art deco building near Washington Avenue and Sixth Street Thursday morning.
Firefighters carried the body of an elderly woman was carried away from the smoke-stained building. It appears the fire started in her first floor apartment around 12:45 a.m.
Another victim, a man in his 20s who lived in the apartment above the woman, died at the hospital. Witnesses believe he tried to save his dogs and was overcome by the smoke. His pets also died in the fire.
"I was one of the last ones to come downstairs because I was sleeping," resident Ruben Veja said.
Veja said he woke to the sound of people banging on his door as his neighbors scrambled to get out of the building which was filled with black smoke. Veja said he grabbed some pants and ran for it.
"When my dad tried to open the door in the middle of the hallway, it was full of smoke," he said.
Nineteen people escaped the fire at the art deco building. Two firefighters were treated for injuries.
Investigators are still trying to determine what started the fire.
One resident speculated that the woman who died may have been smoking in bed. Another questioned the old building's electrical system.
"The alarm system was going off when our engine arrived, but we're still going to look at everything and make sure that everything was working as it should," said Miami Beach Fire Chief Javier Otero.
The Red Cross is assisting those residents who lost their homes in the fire.