Massive Fire Engulfs Georgia Apartment Complex


Gwinnett County firefighters battled a huge fire that engulfed an apartment complex on Thursday morning.

Firefighters told Channel 2 Action News they arrived to find flames shooting out of the Spaulding Hills Apartments on Winter Trail Road in Norcross. Residents said they initially saw the fire coming from the roof of an upper unit.

News Chopper 2 showed firefighters spraying water on the fire that had already gutted the entire top floor of the building.

Gwinnett fire Capt. Tommy Rutledge said firefighters were operating in defensive mode.

"They made an aggressive interior attack but were forced out due to collapse, also intense fire conditions," Rutledge told Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh.

Firefighters from neighboring DeKalb County were also called to the scene to assist because of the size of the fire, but they were not deployed.

Rutledge told Kavanugh that at least eight apartments were destroyed, and the roof partially collapsed on one section of the building.

There were no immediate reports of injuries. Rutledge said his team would begin a room-by-room search once the fire was extinguished, but all residents were accounted for. Firefighters also evacuated some residents living in other buildings within the complex.

Some residents said their neighbors were there when they needed them most.

Osvelia Garcia had already left for work when the predawn fire broke out, but her husband, Rodman Gaitan, was still asleep. She said she tried calling him, but no one answered. Gaitan said he was eventually awoken by a neighbor who ran inside his apartment shouting.

"He was like, 'Hey get out from here! The whole building is on fire,'" Gaitan told Kavanaugh.

His neighbor, Victor Zepeda, said he found Gaitan's door unlocked so he went inside to make sure no one was there. The two men said they had seen each other before but didn't know each other's names. Gaitan said in that moment, it didn't matter.

"We lost everything, but the good thing is we are alive," Gaitan said.

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