CHARLOTTE, N.C. - More than 50 firefighters were needed to extinguish a huge two-alarm fire Wednesday night at a south Charlotte condominium complex.
Crews were called just before 7 p.m. to the condos on Greenside Court and found heavy smoke and fire coming from a unit.
A neighbor is being credited with banging on doors to alert the families to the fire.
"Horrific. I'm surprised no one was killed,” neighbor Paula Hannaway said.
Some of the residents are senior citizens and many of them had pets. The Red Cross is now helping the homeless families.
"I've never lived through anything like this before,” Hannaway said.
Cellphone video obtained by Channel 9 showed the smoke billowing from the unit that was on fire.
It took firefighters about 45 minutes to get the flames under control. No injuries were reported but eight families lost everything they owned.
Channel 9 learned the condos were built before building codes were updated in the 1980s. Neighbors told Eyewitness News the buildings don't have firewalls and that's why the fire spread so quickly.
"This is a reminder of how fragile life is and how soon something can happen like this. They need to, I don't know what they'd do. If they put a firewall between the apartments they'd probably have to tear them all down and start over again," Hannaway said.
Another fire occurred in the same community in 2008. In that case, the fire was caused by an electrical problem with an outlet.
Investigators are trying to figure out what sparked the latest fire that destroyed everything the families had just five days before Christmas.
"I'm sure they had Christmas presents in there,” Hannaway said. “It's just really, really sad."
In the past, firefighters have said anyone who is thinking about buying a condo or renting an apartment that was built in the 1980s or earlier needs to make sure there are firewalls before moving in.
Channel 9 asked firefighters if the fire grew out of control because of the way the building was built. So far, they haven’t responded.
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