BRATTLEBORO -- All tenants and pets of a three-story apartment building at 214 Elliot Street made it out safely before the structure became engulfed in flames Wednesday afternoon.

Fire departments from at least Brattleboro and Keene and Spofford, N.H., responded to the three-alarm blaze that forced authorities to temporarily close off a portion of Elliot Street. Firefighters were battling the inferno with multiple hoses, as black smoke visible from Western Avenue billowed into the air.

Dozens of people convened at the scene and took photographs and video footage of the fire. The smell of burned wood and smoke was beginning to overwhelm the air by about 6 p.m.

Helen Mican said she lived in Apartment 3 and was sleeping on her couch when she heard the fire alarm and then someone banging on doors to inform people of the fire. She told the Reformer she grabbed her two cats and ran outside.

"It started in Apartment 5 -- that's what they're saying," she said, adding that there are seven apartment units in the building. "They're still trying to contain the fire on the roof."

She said she moved into the building five or six weeks ago.

Firefighters, perched on ladders connected to fire trucks, could be seen fiercely battling the flames that occupied the top floor.

Frederic Noyes said he owns and rents out the two buildings at 121 and 125 Frost St., adjacent to the blaze. Firefighters were parked on his property while battling the flames and he said one had set up a hose on his garage to douse the fire with water. He said he and his family live just off Western Avenue.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com; or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow Domenic on Twitter @dpoli_reformer