Investigators are working on getting an arrest warrant for a woman they believe set fire to an apartment on the 6th floor of the River Terrace high-rise complex in Benton Harbor Thursday night.
The complex, which has 150 apartments and is located near the St. Joseph River, is government subsidized housing, designed to provide homes for seniors and the disabled.
Those who live there credit the quick thinking and fast action of a few people that likely saved lives.
"It was like a nightmare. Terrible nightmare," says Dwight Wilder, shaking his head.
A nightmare of flames and thick heavy black smoke consuming Wilder's 6th floor apartment, located on the north side of the complex
"When I opened up the door it was all in flames," Wilder explained. "I don't know specifically what happened."
Wilder was in another part of the complex when he said returned to find his apartment on fire, triggering the fire alarms and sprinkler system.
Around 10 Thursday night Benton Harbor's Public Safety Department responded quickly, with the help of St. Joseph Fire Department's ladder truck.
However, inside elevators shut down because of the fire, leaving some older residents trapped.
"The water was coming down like a waterfall."
Shaun Smith is a caregiver for one of the people living in the complex. When the fire alarms sounded he started knocking on doors to get people out. Some had a hard time walking.
"So me and the maintenance supervisor carried some folks down," explained Smith. "It's all about helping out and doing what you need to do."
"You physically were putting people on your back and carrying them down how many flights of stairs?" WSBT asked. "From the 7th floor," answered Smith.
Ella Willis lives in the apartment directly below where the fire started.
"My walls are messed up, Some of my furniture is messed up. I lost my food. I didn't lose my life, I'm blessed."
Willis considers Smith a hero.
"He was piggy backing people up and down. He should be commended."
Smith carried four people to safety.
"It's nothing special, nothing glamorous about it. Do what you have to do to save people,"
Steve Cook, manages the complex.
"Very, very grateful, that with a property of this size we had nobody hurt."
Volunteers from the American Red Cross were at the complex Friday offering assistance to any people, like Willis, displaced by the fire.
Cook says most residents would be moved to other vacant apartments in the complex.
In the meantime, police are looking for a female suspect and are in the process of getting an arrest warrant for her.
They believe she's still in the area.
She could be charged with arson, which is a felony and carries a 20-year prison sentence.