CHARLOTTE, N.C. - FRIDAY UPDATE: Charlotte Fire Department station 23 has been donated a fully decorated Christmas tree to replace the one that was stolen Thursday while firefighters were out fighting Thursday's apartment fire. Those same firefighters will be delivering toys Friday afternoon to some of those families who were displaced.
An overnight fire damaged at least eight apartments in east Charlotte Wednesday night, leaving 26 people looking for another place to stay just days before Christmas.
Investigators returned to the Country Club Apartments on Dunlavin Way Thursday morning to try to determine the cause of the blaze – which started in a storage shed attached attached to one of the units. They said it caused about $250,000 worth of damages.
The fire started just after 11:30 p.m. and firefighters worked for more than an hour to put it out and were at the apartment complex all night monitoring hot spots and making sure the fire didn’t rekindle.
"We just got to keep our faith and let it be in God's hands, as long as everybody was safe, everybody got out," said Kenny Brown, who watched the apartments go up in flames.
Firefighters said nobody was hurt in the fire.
"Honestly, we don't know what we are going to do. Everything downstairs got lost. I got three kids and a mother-in-law and we just moved in the first of December," said Roger Valasquez as he tried to salvage his belongings.
Valasquez said he had no renters' insurance. For now his family is staying with other family members, but they have no idea about the future.
"Everything is messed up, everything is damaged. The whole ceiling came down," he said. "Honestly, we don't know what we are going to do."
The Red Cross is helping those displaced by the fire find a place to stay.
Firefighters said while they were out fighting the apartment fire, someone stole their Christmas tree from their fire station.
The station 23 crew had paid for the giant tree with their own money, then decorated it and placed it outside the building on East W.T. Harris Boulevard -- it's been a tradition for years.
“We almost wonder if it’s a Grinch rolling around the east side of Charlotte because we've had that tree outside for quite a while and for somebody to take our Christmas tree is kind of sad this time of year,” said Capt. Shawn Royall.
Firefighters are asking the thief to bring the tree back unless he or she needs it more.