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Residents Jump To Safety As Fire Burns At Detroit Apartments, Police Investigating Sexual Assault Link

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DETROIT (AP) — A fire gutted an apartment building early Wednesday on Detroit's west side, forcing dozens of people out of their homes, including some who jumped from second- and third-story windows.

There were no immediate reports of deaths caused by the fire, which broke out about 6 a.m. at Jason Manor Apartments. However, authorities were bringing in cadaver-detecting dogs to search the ruins because the collapsed roof made it hard for firefighters to search, said Tracy Thomas, a fire battalion chief.

"Hopefully we won't" find any bodies, Thomas said.

At least four people were treated at hospitals and several others were treated for minor injuries at the scene, Fire Commissioner Jonathan Jackson said.

Firefighters rescued about 25 people, who were given shelter in a bus before being taken to a nearby church, he said.

"Our firefighters did a heroic job," Jackson said. He said the department was still trying to account for everyone who was inside.

Tameka Williams, 28, who was among about 50 people taking refuge at the church shelter, said she was awakened by her boyfriend. She said they tried to leave her second-floor apartment with her two children, ages 8 and 6, but there was too much smoke outside the door.

"We went to the window and I dropped them down, then I jumped down and then he jumped down," Williams said. She said the children weren't injured but that her leg hurt a bit.

"I lost everything. I'm alive. I'm still here. That other stuff can be replaced," she said.

Ellery Taylor told The Detroit News that he woke up to the sound of a smoke alarm early Wednesday. He rushed to the door of his apartment, where he was met with thick smoke that enveloped the hallways.

"When I looked out of the window, my neighbor was hollering: 'Jump! Jump! Jump! You have to jump!'" he said. "When I jumped, the first thing I thought was could I help somebody?"

Police were called to the building earlier to deal with a disturbance at a party, Jackson said, and police were investigating whether that was related to the fire. The cause of the fire wasn't immediately known.

Police spokesman Rodney Johnson said that when officers arrived shortly after 3 a.m., a woman reported being sexually assaulted and was taken to a hospital. He said she was visiting someone in the building but didn't know the person who allegedly assaulted her.

The building had 42 units and 39 were occupied, Jackson said.

"A lot of people were half-naked," Doug Woodcock, who works at a nearby building, told the Detroit Free Press. "We gave them shoes."

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Associated Press writer Jeff Karoub contributed to this report.

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