EAST LIBERTY (KDKA) – A total of 24 people had to be rescued from a four-alarm fire in East Liberty Monday morning.

According to officials at the scene, the fire broke out at a three-story brick apartment building in the 300-block of Negley Avenue around 7 a.m.

Smoke filled the hallway making escape nearly impossible for residents.

“The fire blocked the stairwell, residents could not escape,” Pittsburgh Fire Chief Darryl Jones said.

Firefighters had to use regular ladders to rescue residents because they could not get their aerial ladder trucks near the building.

“I opened up my door and there was black smoke billowing into my apartment. I freaked out,” Mike Dodds said.

At one point, three children and an adult were trapped in one of the apartments before firefighters were able to get them out.

“This could have been a tragedy of humongous proportions,” Jones said.

Twelve people were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, while four other were transported to a local hospital with unknown injuries.

The cause of the fire is unknown, but it is believed to have started in or near a hallway.

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