Red Cross helps 20 displaced residents after southwest Charlotte apartment fire

CHARLOTTE — A large southwest Charlotte apartment fire Monday night that caused about $500,000 in damage was caused by someone who didn’t properly dispose of smoking materials, the fire department said.

Channel 9 spoke with several people who have said the American Red Cross has really stepped up after the fire that happened on Whitehall Drive off West Arrowood Road near South Tryon Street.

No one was hurt but Charlotte Fire Department officials said about 60 people are without a home.

Officials with the Red Cross gave displaced residents debit cards with money to spend on hotel rooms and essentials.

Leonard Gunter was at work when the fire broke out early Monday night.

“I looked over and you can just see the flames coming off the balcony, and I’m like, ‘Oh, no,’” Gunter told Channel 9 Tuesday.

His partner, Erica Whitted, said she was at home taking care of her mother when firefighters told them to evacuate.

“And then next thing you know, one of the apartments just blew up,” she said. “Yes, you could see it. It was just a big black cloud.”

Whitted said people started running.

“And then they started evacuating everyone,” she said. “They were like, ‘Get back. Get back.’”

Selena Almonte said she heard something similar.

“The fire busted through the door. (The) storage room door busted out,” Almonte said.

The fire damaged 20 units, investigators said.

Apartment management is leaving doors open so residents can access their things.

Gunter said he is worried about vandalism so he’s keeping watch 24/7.

“I slept out here all night, in my car,” he told Channel 9. “Because they’re letting people go up all night. They had people here going upstairs all night, so why wouldn’t I stay here?”

Many residents are trying to figure out what to do next.

“It’s pretty much you’re moving again, but not by choice,” Gunter said.

Other residents said Monday night they also heard a boom and ran out of their apartments.

“One of my friends called me and said it was like a big explosion,” resident Candy Ledbetter said. “She said something is going on at your apartment complex and then when I came from my mom’s house, I saw this. So I don’t know what’s going on.”

Charlotte firefighters got the fire under control in 42 minutes.

(WATCH BELOW: No injuries after fire guts apartments on Lake Norman)

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