Three people hurt, 10 units affected by SW Charlotte - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Three people hurt, 10 apartments affected by SW Charlotte fire

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Firefighters battled an apartment fire for well over an hour before bringing it under control, but 10 units were still either heavily damaged or destroyed.

The phones started ringing off the hook at the Charlotte Fire dispatch center.  Multiple calls started streaming in reporting a massive fire at the Sun Valley Apartment complex off Arrowood Road in southeast Charlotte around 3am Wednesday.

Emergency crews arrived on scene, spotted the large amount of smoke, but couldn't see the flames at first.

"It was just like if you were sitting around a (camp) fire." said Paula McDanial, who's a chief with the Charlotte Fire Department.

"The smoke comes to you...you can't see a lot.  But there was a lot of fire involved, and it's coming through the roof in a very large area."

Two residents were rushed to the hospital with burns.  They are now at the Burn Center at Chapel Hill.  Their names have not been released. Authorities say a fire investigator was also hurt but has already been cleared to return to duty.

Residents ran from their homes as quickly as they could.  Many were seen sitting outside with fully-packed suitcases next to them.

All they could do was watch as their apartments burned.

Speaking to WBTV through a translator, Jocelyn Cubis said it was a frightening scene.

"Someone was screaming for us to get out and I opened the window.  By the time I got to the door the fire was already there," Cubis said.

She managed to escape with her two young children but the family lost everything in the fire.

Firefighters at one point pulled back because the situation had become too dangerous.

A short time later, the walls and roof collapsed.  It could have proven fatal for any rescuer who was in the path of the falling debris.

"Very dangerous." said McDanial.  "There was a partial collapse in the back.  That's something that firefighters lose their lives over all the time is collapse."

When the fire was finally brought under control after crews called a third alarm for backup, close to two-dozen units were damaged.

McDanial said the building is most likely gone.  Firefighters believe they know where the fire started but are still investigating an exact cause.

The Red Cross arrived on the scene to help residents who now find themselves homeless.

Also on scene were volunteers with Learning/Help Ctrs. of Charlotte, which visits the apartment complex weekly to help tutor the many children who live their with their families.

"To see these children we've been seeing every week now left with nothing?  We want to help the families with food, clothing and furniture as best we can," said Executive Director Jeffrey Park.

Copyright 2013 - WBTV.  All Rights Reserved.

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