RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Several people were forced from their apartments in Richmond’s Southside after a fire broke out burning all of their belongings. 8News spoke to one of the families about their experience.

Jorge Hernandez said that, thankfully, no one in his family was home at the time of the fire. Unfortunately, however, their beloved cat, Cookie, did not make it out.

“It was devastating when I opened that door man. The only thing I wanted to save was my cat,” Hernandez said. “I lost one of my family members. I know it’s a pet but, to me, it’s not a pet it’s like a family member.”

According to the Richmond Fire Department, crews responded to the apartment complex on Southwood Parkway at around 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1, for a reported apartment fire.

“Soon as I walk up the stairs and I open the door just black smoke hitting my face,” Hernandez recalled. “It was impossible. It was no way for me to go in there … So I started banging on everybody’s door while I was calling 911 making sure nobody was in the apartment.”

When firefighters arrived, they found smoke and flames coming from the second floor.

“Next thing you know flames are coming out the windows, windows are busting out,” Hernandez said.

The responding crews worked quickly to extinguish the fire, and it was marked under control at 12:35 p.m. According to authorities, nine people in two units were assisted by the Red Cross as a result of the fire. Hernandez said the Red Cross helped his family get a hotel for the next few days. He says he’s not sure what the next steps will be after that but, for now, he’s just thankful that no one was hurt.

“Good thing nobody was around at that time because it was a workday,” Hernandez — a father of three — said. “You know it’s hard but it’s not impossible.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Hernandez and his family buried Cookie nearby the apartment complex.

“She died in that window looking for freedom to escape from the flames,” Hernandez said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.