Toddler Sets Charlotte Apartment Building Fire

July 13--An overnight fire that gutted a north Charlotte apartment building and displaced two families was started by a 4-year-old playing with a lighter in a bedroom closet.

Charlotte Fire Department officials said no one was injured in the blaze, which started just before midnight on Sunday in the Dillehay Courts apartments on Bellefonte Drive, about two miles north of uptown.

Katrina Jackson, who lives in an apartment building next door, said she and her sister saw smoke coming from her neighbor's roof and ran to alert the people inside.

"We knocked on the first family's door, and everybody inside was asleep," Jackson said. "Then the kids started running out and their parents, too. One of the kids was in the shower and came out in a towel.

"After we got everybody out, we saw the heavy smoke."

When firefighters arrived, they saw smoke and fire streaming from the roof of an apartment. Neighbors said the flames reached 10 feet above the two-story building, singeing the branches of a nearby tree and threatening apartments close by.

The apartment building's occupants had been alerted by smoke detectors and none had to be rescued by firefighters.

Jackson said firefighters arrived a few seconds after everyone got out. The first responders sawed several holes to vent smoke and cut through an exterior wall.

A firefighter also recovered the lighter that apparently sparked the blaze, Jackson said.

In all, the fire caused about $150,000 in damage.

The Red Cross was assisting the displaced families -- a total of 14 people.

Dillehay Courts was built in 1974 and is managed by the Charlotte Housing Authority, according to its website. It houses nearly 600 people.

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