LAUREL, Md. (DC News Now) — Howard County firefighters were called to an apartment fire at the Bowling Brooks Apartments in Laurel on Wednesday morning.

In a post shortly after 11:15 a.m., Howard County Fire and EMS said that firefighters were at the apartment building in the 9000 block of Stebbing Way.

Firefighters nearby arrived in just moments and had the blaze contained within 45 minutes. At that time, crews began searching the building.

“I seen this black smoke billowing out,” said Riley McGeehan, who doesn’t live at the building but saw the flames engulf all three stories as he returned home.

Officials said that no people were in the building. The fire department’s public information officer said that responders removed two dogs and one cat. None of the animals were injured.

“There was a close call with the firefighters, however, because part of the top facade…actually came down and almost crashed onto first responders,” said McGeehan.

The American Red Cross is helping 26 people forced from their homes.

Investigators said the fire caused roughly $1 million in damage, and it’s too soon to say if the building will have to be demolished.

As of Wednesday night, it was still unknown what caused the fire.