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Neighbors Help Everyone Escape Morning Apartment Fire

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Neighbors helped 13 people escape unharmed from a morning apartment fire in Cedar Rapids.

The first call came in around 8:15 this morning for smoke and flames coming from the building with four apartments at in the 400 block of fourteenth Street Southeast.

Everyone made it out safely, but there is extensive damage to the apartment complex. The fire started in a second floor unit that was reportedly vacant and quickly spread. While the fire was mostly contained to the second floor, there is heavy smoke and water damage to the lower levels.

13 people were home when the fire broke out including several children under the age of five. Tara Countryman, who lives in one of the apartments, noticed the fire and started knocking on doors to get everyone out.

"I heard an alarm going off I wasn't sure if it was a smoke alarm or what and then I heard stuff falling," said Countryman. "I went outside to see what happened and I seen flames so I got everybody out."

Fire officials say a smoke alarm going off helped warn residents early enough to get out.

"Originally the person across the hall in the upper level heard smoke alarms going of in a vacant apartment," said Greg Buelow with the Cedar Rapids Fire Department. "That's how they were first notified we're very fortunate those were going off to alert everybody and everyone got out safely."

The Red Cross is helping the residents displaced by the fire.

Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused it.

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