More than 20 residents of a Lexington apartment building were displaced Sunday by an early morning fire.
The blaze gutted a corner unit at Main Cross Apartments, 568 North Broadway, and caused smoke damage to neighboring units, said Lt. Kevin Ahlgrim of the Lexington fire department.
No residents were hurt, but they had to move because electricity and gas utilities had to be cut off to the entire building, said Lt. Carrie Bowling of the fire department's community services bureau.
In all, 23 residents were displaced. Most were relocated to the La Quinta Inn in north Lexington.
The fire department has not released a cause of the fire. But Christopher Burton, 25, and Jared Bryant, 21, the occupants of the most severely damaged apartment, said the cause was probably related to their pre-lit Christmas tree.
"We had accidentally forgotten to unplug the Christmas tree," Burton said. "It was a pre-lit tree and we had an old extension cord that went up into the middle of the tree, and that's where the fire started and then it spread onto the couch."
About 5:40 a.m. Sunday, Burton said he woke up choking and noticed smoke in the apartment. He and Bryant tried to alert other residents by yelling from a back balcony, and then climbed across a ledge to get away from the flames.
"We've lost everything but we've got our lives, which is the most important thing," Burton said.
Burton is the manager of the Pizza Hut on South Limestone, and he said fellow employees were gathering donations of clothes, dishes and towels.
"I've never been the type to reach your hand out and ask for help, and it really surprises you when you are in need for help that people offer that hand," Burton said.
Another resident, Betsy Richardson, said she had just put up her Christmas tree last week. She was staying at the La Quinta Inn and hoped to soon be back in her apartment.
"It's nerve-wracking, upsetting, because I've never been in a fire in my whole life," Richardson said. "So it can really upset you pretty bad if you've never been through something like this before."