BRADENTON, Fla. — More than twenty people have been displaced after a fire sparked at the Mira Lagos apartment complex in Bradenton early Monday morning. 

  • Fire sparked at Mira Lagos Apartments in Bradenton
  • 4 units completely destroyed, 12 without power
  • 21 residents now left without homes

Officials with the Southern Manatee Fire Rescue said four units in Building 19 were completely destroyed and four more units are unlivable. Another 12 units are without power, after fire officials say the heat from the flames affected the power supply of an adjacent building. 

(Photo Courtesy of Angie Angers/Spectrum Bay News 9)

All of the residents made it out safely, largely thanks to the heroic efforts of a Good Samaritan, Dep. Chief Rick Blanco of Southern Manatee Fire Rescue confirmed. 

Tamecia Lopez and her four children were inside one of the second-floor units when the flames ignited. She rushed them out of bed and onto the back patio where she started screaming for help. 

"I stood there until this man came with a ladder, I was just thinking this is it, this is how I'm going to die," Lopez said. "I was throwing my four kids over the balcony to this stranger because at this point I had no choice. It's either stay here and watch my kids die, or get them to safety." 

Fire officials say the man who helped rescue the residents was Walter Rivas. He works in construction and was on his way to work early Monday when he heard the screams. He grabbed the large aluminum ladder from his truck and assisted a handful of residents out of the burning apartments. 

In a hurry to make it to work on time, officials say he left his ladder with firefighters and his wife returned for it later. 

Lopez says she is forever grateful for his help. 

“I just want to say thank you,” she said. “If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have gotten out and my kids wouldn’t have gotten out.” 

The state fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire. As of now, they believe it started in a first-floor apartment.