Davenport firefighters rescued two children from an apartment fire and helped two other people escape with a ladder during an early morning blaze that left five families without shelter.

The fire at 7210 Hillandale Road started about 2:15 a.m. Sunday, District Chief Robbie Minnaert said. It is considered suspicious, he said. 

“When our crews arrived on the scene, we found a two-story, eight-unit apartment building with a fire in one of the first-floor units.”

Although the fire damage was heavy, it was confined to a vacant first-floor, he said.

The fire caused the hallways and the other apartments in the building to fill with smoke, he said.

“Firefighters carried two children out of harm’s way, and two people were removed from the second story via ladder by firefighters,” Minnaert said. The smoke blocked exits, he said.

The timing of the fire was particularly challenging to fire crews because “at 2:15 in the morning, everybody’s going to be home in bed,” Minnaert said.

Another challenge was the layout of the complex. “It’s kind of a split-level, so it’s a lot of area to search. You’re not so much concerned about the fire as much as you are getting to the people,” he said, noting there are exits on four levels.

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The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Davenport fire marshal, he said. “It’s considered a suspicious fire due to the fact that it was in a vacant apartment,” he added.

The American Red Cross of the Quad-Cities Area is assisting about 15 people.

Red Cross volunteers on the scene were members of the chapter’s Disaster Action Team, a group of specially trained volunteers who respond to the scene of a local disaster when called upon at any time of the day or night.

Between July 1, 2012, and April 30, 2013, with two months remaining in its fiscal year, the American Red Cross of the Quad-Cities Area assisted 196 families after a disaster, according to Kasey Kelly, regional communications manager. Last fiscal year, the Red Cross assisted 143 families total, she said.