LORTON, Va. (WUSA9) -- Fairfax County fire and rescue officials say one person has died in a four alarm fire at an apartment complex.
Mary Ann Brookie, 34, was killed in the apartment fire which happened on May 27, police said.
Dozens of people are without a home and four firefighters were injured after a fire in the 8200 block of Catbird Circle. Fire was showing through the roof of two garden condominium buildings.
At least 24 units were damaged or destroyed. 36 residents have been displaced and it took 160 firefighters to put out the fire. Officials estimate the damages to be around $1 million.
There is no hesitation when Shellie Vanover tells you, "It's the most terrifying thing I've been through in my life," a life she nearly lost in when a fire ripped through her condo building in Lorton Tuesday afternoon. "I didn't think I was going to get out," she admitted.
Vanover was inside her condo when saw smoke outside her window. She went outside and, to her alarm, saw the building on fire. But Vanover said she had to go back in, her dog and two cats were still inside.
She was able to grab the dog and one cat in the first trip.
"As I was out running with the animals, the windows were blowing out and exploding," described Vanover.
Then, she had to go back in for her other cat.
"I couldn't see anything, I was down on my belly, if stood up I couldn't breath at all. I was down on my belly and I had to go up the stairs and I still didn't know where he was but I wasn't leaving without him," said Vanover.
Through the smoke, she finally found the cat under a bed. She grabbed him and ran out of the building. "It went up like a tinder box. It was so fast," said Vanover.
Sandra McLean and her two children came home to see their building in flames. All they could do was watch. "I was thinking that it's going to spread completely because it was so much fire," said McLean.
While so many ran away from the burning building, Lori Craddock, who was out getting her mail, ran into it the building, banged on doors, alerted and helped people and animals get out until firefighters arrived.
"Something needed to be done quick so we jumped on it," said Craddock. "I saw this giant fire and I really didn't think much except I gotta get over there. I was worried about it spreading. Obviously, [the building] was completely engulfed - the middle - but I kept thinking what about the people in the left and right?" said Craddock.
When Fairfax County Fire Rescue arrived, they ran ino the building, condo to condo, rescuing people who were trapped.
Fire Chief Richard Bowers said several more had to be rescued from their balconies.
24 units damaged or destroyed and dozens of people, now, without a place to live. But, as Shellie Vanover will tell you, they are the lucky ones.
"I had a lot damage but everybody made it out alive," said Vanover.
Investigators say the fire was accidental. "Improperly discarded smoking materials caused the fire", officials said.