JOPLIN, Mo. — Four families are homeless tonight after a large fire destroyed an apartment building in Joplin.

Forrest Barnard and his girlfriend woke up to a nightmare.

“She came screaming into the bedroom where I was asleep. I woke up to her saying ‘Fire! Fire! There’s a fire in the house!’ Smoke was filling our apartment room, coming into our bedroom,” said Forrest Barnard, Apartment Fire Victim.

Through the smoke, he ran out of his bedroom.

“I looked out back and it was just orange flames covering the back side of the house,” he said.

Huge flames shot out of the roof of their apartment building. Forrest raced to start warning his neighbors.

“As soon as I came outside I screamed. I was like, everybody needs to get out,” he added.

He then started banging on doors. David Heckmaster heard it and woke up surrounded by thick black smoke with the flames moving in.

“I opened the bedroom door and it was just a wall of flames, the back door broke, it was over in minutes, there was too much smoke to even get anything out,” said David Heckmaster, Apartment Fire Victim.

While David got out alive, sadly, their three cats didn’t make it.

We were on scene as firefighters from four stations in Joplin used 2 ladder trucks and worked for hours to put out the fire. Later in the morning, the families tried to salvage anything they could, some didn’t even have shoes.

“I just thank God everyone made it out alive, we will move forward from here, one day at a time,” said David.

Nearby neighbors brought their own clothes and shoes to help.

“We always come together we something bad happens. People always go to try to help their neighbor in those situations and it’s what makes our community special,” said Deputy Chief Andy Nimmo, Joplin Fire Department.

Deputy Chief Nimmo and everyone in the apartments that caught fire say they are so grateful Forrest Barnard protected his neighbors.

“Oh, I’m no hero, man. Hopefully, they would have gotten up without me but I’m glad I did what I did. I’m glad I made sure everybody knew,” said Forrest.

A brave act of courage in the midst of disaster.