Shaun Belton, his 3-month-old daughter and his fiancee's 3-year-old son were sleeping in a bedroom Wednesday morning when Belton woke to the sound of a fire alarm and screams.
"I opened the front door and it was like looking into a dark hallway," he said. "I couldn't see a thing for the smoke."
An apartment next to Belton's was engulfed in flames.
He said he heard sirens, so he grabbed Shaybria and Cahron and ran for the balcony. Moments later, Charlotte firefighters had pulled a ladder truck up to his apartment.
"They put the ladder up to the balcony and I handed the baby over. Then I handed Cahron to another fireman," said Belton, 23. "I just climbed down."
The 9:15 a.m. fire at the Winterwood apartments off Sharon Road destroyed two units and damaged others, Capt. Jim Dedmon said. More than 50 firefighters battled the two-alarm blaze.
Five people were treated for minor injuries, Dedmon said. All were released from hospitals later in the day.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation late Wednesday.
Residents who couldn't return home have moved to other apartments in the complex, according to its management company.
Belton was allowed back into his apartment. He said it was a little smoky and soot covered the tables, but nothing appeared damaged.