CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The floor felt like lava, that's how one resident of the Churchill Square Apartments described this morning's fire.
911 got a call around 3 a.m., and when the first fire trucks pulled up, they knew immediately they would need help to battle the blaze. So a second alarm was pulled, and more firefighters called in to assist.
All of the residents got out safely, but firefighters still had to search the apartments to make sure no one was trapped by smoke and flames.
Once the blaze was under control, crews turned their attention to the hot spots.
Eight apartments were destroyed by the fire, and the families that lived in them spent the day trying to salvage belongings, and finding another place to stay.
There are three new realities for the folks who used to live here: Some of them have family they can stay with, the Red Cross is helping others and the rest might get to stay in this complex, just in other, non-damaged apartments.
They all have one thing in common -- they had a really early and really scary wake-up call.
“My mom told me to get up, because there was a fire,” 9-year-old apartment resident Zachary Garza said.
And that’s how young Zachary’s day started.
Thankfully his mom woke up, saw smoke billowing from the apartment below her, and got her family to safety.
"And then we left the place," Zachary said. "And then we went over there and when the fire happened, the flames went on the top of the thing.”
Through all the flames and smoke, Zachary, his mom and brother made it out without a scratch, and as it turns out, no one who used to live in the now-burned-out apartment building was hurt.
Better still ... thanks in part to this so-called "utility truck," all of the firefighters were able to ward off any heat-related injuries.
The owner of Churchill Square says it's the best-possible ending to a bad situation.
"We were mainly just thankful that everybody got out,” apartment owner Scott White said. “No people were harmed. No pets were harmed.”
And neighbors whose apartments didn't suffer damage agree.
"That's great. Blessed," apartment resident Concepcion Reyes said.
Zachary's family is one of the ones who'll stay with family for now. There's not much left of their apartment, and crews have now boarded it up for safety reasons.
While the flames did not reach all eight apartments in that building, those that didn't burn had significant smoke or water damage -- or a combination of both.
So if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, follow this sound advice... from a 9-year-old.
"Get out,” Zachary said. “Run, and just stay away from the fire."
The Red Cross tells us there are a lot of things you can do to prevent or reduce the risk of a fire.
But what do you do if you're the victim of a fire?
The first step? Recover emotionally, and try to get back into your normal routine as quickly as possible. Focus on the positive but realize that recovery can take time.
Next: check your home. Your biggest task for now will be cleaning up. You can remove smoke odor with a mixture of one cup of bleach or household cleaner to every gallon of water.
After the cleanup, focus on your financial recovery. Contact your insurance agent as soon as possible. Put together a list of damaged property and collect any receipts you still have.
The last step is rebuilding. Make sure any work that's done meets current building, fire or electrical codes.
And if you didn't have one before, install a smoke alarm.