Massive Fire Destroys N.C. Apartments

MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. --

A massive fire tore through a Mount Holly apartment building Tuesday afternoon.

The Kendrick Square Apartments building on West Charlotte Avenue caught fire at about 12:30 p.m. Gaston County firefighters had to call Charlotte firefighters for help when the blaze escalated to two alarms.

The person who initially called 911 to report the fire said an oxygen tank exploded inside an apartment, causing a couch to catch fire. The Gaston County fire marshal, who is handling the investigation, said it appears a man on an oxygen tank was smoking, dropped ashes on his couch and caught a blanket on fire, and the fire spread to the tank, causing it to spray flames everywhere.

Firefighters said when they arrived, the fire had already spread to the roof and flames were shooting 20 feet into the air.

It took firefighters about an hour to get the flames under control. In that time, six apartments were destroyed.

Everyone escaped the building without injury, but nine people are now homeless.

Tonya Watkins said, It looks like we lost everything.

Watkins young son saw smoke rising from the apartment below. She said they had very little time to get out.

Me, my son and my cousins were running down the steps, and when we got out, it was just engulfed in smoke and flames, Watkins said.

Officials said the attic over the six apartments did not have a firewall so the blaze was able to spread quickly across the roof.

One of my neighbors come and got me out, said resident Mary East.

East said she got out with the clothes on her back, some medicine and her purse. She uses oxygen for her chronic pulmonary disease, but was not in the apartment where the fire started.

Like the eight other tenants of the building, she is relying on the Red Cross to find her somewhere else to stay Tuesday night, and its her 58th birthday.

"God will make a way for me to make it and every one of us that lives around here. God's right with us," she said.

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