(CNN)At least one person is dead and 17 more were injured -- some critically -- in a fire early Saturday that left some residents in a highrise apartment building in Silver Spring, Maryland, trapped on balconies, fire officials say.
The three-alarm fire, with more than 100 firefighters responding, broke out shortly before 6 a.m. in a seventh-floor apartment of the 15-story highrise just north of Washington, DC, said Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein.
At least 17 people were transported to hospitals, several with critical or life-threatening injuries, fire officials said. Seven others arrived at hospitals on their own. Three firefighters sustained minor injuries.
One resident, an "adult female" whose identity has not been released, died after being transported to a hospital, according to Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service spokesman Pete Piringer.
Heavy smoke prevented some residents from leaving their apartments in the Arrive Silver Spring complex, forcing a number of them to wait on their balconies in subfreezing temperatures, fire officials said. Others, without balconies, were trapped in their apartments until rescuers arrived. Some trapped residents called 911.
"We did have a multiple number of apartments in which the residents were unable to exit the hallway based upon significant smoke conditions," Goldstein said.
Residents who managed to leave their apartments had to maneuver around firefighters trying to reach the seventh floor.
"You have fire crews going up. Residents coming down on the same stairwells. And ... smoke conditions on multiple floors throughout the building were identified as extremely dense or zero visibility," Goldstein said.
Gianna Gronowski, who describes herself on Twitter as a digital editor for Stars and Stripes, said she was trapped on her balcony, CNN affiliate WUSA reported.
On Saturday morning, Gronowski chronicled the fire's aftermath in a series of tweets, including photos of cherry pickers stretching to the building's upper floors and a dog evacuated to a hotel lobby across the street -- along with two cats and a gecko in a lunchbox. She later tweeted that residents were "cooped up" in the hotel ballroom.
Goldstein said residents in as many as 200 units could be displaced on Saturday, as management deals with soot, smoke and water damage. Shelter will be provided to those residents at a local recreation center.
Joe Tesh, who lives on the seventh floor, told WUSA he woke about 6 a.m. and heard neighbors trying to put out a fire in their apartment.
Tesh said he directed the neighbors to a fire extinguisher and then escaped the scene with his partner. They crawled under heavy smoke to a stairwell. On the sixth floor, Tesh told the station, he activated a fire alarm that alerted other residents.
Images and video from the scene showed flames emerging from windows in the middle of the building in the predawn hours. An explosion heard on video may have been caused by an overheated aerosol can, the chief said.
The fire was under control and extinguished about 30 minutes after the initial 911 call, Goldstein told reporters.
Goldstein said there are no sprinklers in the apartments or hallways.
"The fire alarm was clearly active and working when our crews were here," the chief said.
Residents were evacuated to a hotel across the street. Some were barefoot and still wearing pajamas in the hotel lobby immediately after the fire, WUSA reported.
The fire is under investigation. Goldstein said investigators were combing through the debris and ashes to determine the fire's origin and cause.
The building is 15 stories, with 14 levels of occupancy, Goldstein said. There are roughly 450 apartments in two connected buildings, with about 1,300 residents.