GLADSTONE, Mo. -- It was a long day of waiting for a dozen people burned out of their Northland homes early Tuesday morning.
But thanks to volunteers and the American Red Cross, they didn't have to worry about food or a place to stay warm Tuesday afternoon.
A faint beeping of a fire alarm was all the warning a metro family said they had to escape the fire burning in the laundry room of their Gladstone apartment building.
According to firefighters, the fire started inside the Crown Heights Apartments just after 1 a.m. Tuesday. People living in the building said the smoke alarms inside the laundry room did work, but the alarms were quiet.
That's why one woman said her daughter made sure she and her grandchildren were out of the building and safely to their cars -- and then she went back inside to warn others.
"(She) went up and started knocking on all the doors to get the other people out and tell them there was a fire," resident Rita Brewer said.
The fire, smoke and water damaged or destroyed more than two-dozen apartments in the building, officials said, including many of the tenants' belongings.
"All the kids lost all their Christmas gifts," Brewer said.
The Red Cross opened a shelter at the Gladstone Community Center and made sure about a dozen people from the apartment building had showers, hot food and a warm place to spend the afternoon.
"You never think it's gonna be you," Brewer said.
Now those who lived in the building are waiting to see when they will be allowed back inside to see if there's anything they can salvage.
Investigators are still trying to determine what started the fire but said say a firewall in the building kept the flames from spreading to even more apartments.