WARRENSBURG, Ill. (WCIA) – A fire destroyed a Warrensburg apartment building Monday morning. Crews spent hours dousing the flames near Southland Drive and Southland Court.

“There wasn’t any time for anything else; the smoke was filling the apartment. I just had to make sure we could get as many people out as we could,” Jerry Harding said.

Harding is one of dozens of peole who lost their home. He and his fiancé jumped from a two-story window to escape the fire. He said they woke up to a neighbor yelling in the hallway around 10 a.m., but when they opened the door, they were met with heavy smoke.

“My dog was barking. She opened the door and there was smoke and she said, ‘babe, we got to get out,'” Harding said.

He said they had about two minutes to act before the fire consumed their home.

“So, I kicked out the window and I jumped out and helped catch my fiancé and my puppy. The cage didn’t make it out the window,” he said.

Harding’s five cats were in that cage. The couple jumped from the second-floor, leaving everything but their dog behind. 25 other people are now also without a home. Luckily, they all made it out of the building before it was lost to the flames.

“She’s a little banged up, I’m a little banged up. Overall, we’re okay,” he said.

Warrensburg Fire Chief Keith Hackel said by the time crews arrived, the building was already consumed by flames, taking them hours to extinguish – even with a fellow firefighter living there.

“My assistant chief lives here. So, he totally lost his apartment,” Hackel said.

He said 8 or 9 agencies responded. The wooden construction, long hallways and heavy wind made the fire difficult to control. One woman didn’t want to leave because her cat was still inside.

“I talked her out of worrying about the cat. I wanted to save her life. Not that we don’t respect cats and dogs, but human life is more important to me,” Hackel said.

One family was 20 minutes away in Decatur when they got a call from a maintenance worker.

“He didn’t say how bad it was, and then we saw a picture. It was bad. It was terrible,” Kayla Parkhurst said.

Chief Hackel said there was a small fire in the same building several months ago due to a dryer. The investigation into the cause of Monday’s fire is ongoing.

Many don’t know where they’re going to stay now. The Red Cross Disaster Team said they’re providing comfort kits, blankets, food and water to help victims meet basic needs. They’ll also be supporting them with health and mental health services.

Some people already collecting donations of household items for the families.

The Sharon United Methodist Church located on the corner of Center and Wyckles Road will be hosting a rummage sale this weekend. They said they’ll remain open for fire victims to choose items they may need from 6-8 p.m. Friday night, according to the Village of Warrensburg’s Facebook page.