AUBURN – The American Red Cross responded  to a Westbury Heights apartment fire early this morning that has displaced 21 residents.

Auburn and Johnson fire crews were dispatched at 2:39 a.m. to the 14th Street apartment.

A resident living next door to the apartment fire said he helped with the evacuation.

Resident: “I went back in five times to get people’s items for them and try to look for pets that people were looking for  and then, when they (firefighters) got there, they wouldn’t let anyone else back into the building.”

Firefighters contained the fire to a single apartment, but residents are expected to be displaced at least a week until the building’s electrical system is assessed and fire sprinklers are re-activated.

American Red Cross Disaster Responder Bonnie Zimbelman said many residents, who did not leave with family, were taken to the Nemaha County Hospital to be checked on. The Red Cross asked that they be moved to the senior center later in the morning.

Zimbelman: “We attend all home fires, apartment fires and we try to help the people get to a hotel as soon as possible, instead of staying on the street and wondering what to do.”

She said home fires are the most common disaster in the United States, so the Red Cross provides some financial and counseling assistance, as well as helping replace needed medicines.

Zimbelman: “Yeah, I would say a lot of people are probably in shock as most people are when they lose their home or get pushed out of their home unexpectedly. That’s kind of a common response. Given ages and everything too, it’s a little more difficult to acclimate to that situation.

Because of the number of displaced residents, the Red Cross is working for both individual and congregate emergency housing.