Eight apartments damaged by fire

NORCROSS - Residents of eight apartments were left temporarily homeless Tuesday after an accidental fire caused heavy damage to a building in Huntington Ridge Apartments off Jimmy Carter Boulevard.

Firefighters arrived at Building 1168 in the complex at 12:20 p.m. to find heavy smoke showing. A blaze which began near a furnace and an electrical panel on the first floor of the building spread upward into the second floor and attic. Two units on the other side of the building also sustained smoke damage.

Gustavo Flores, a maintenance worker at the complex, tried frantically to search apartments in the building, breaking out windows and kicking in doors to find occupants who may have been trapped.

"We were trying to look below the smoke to see inside, but it was hovering about three feet off the ground. You could only see about 10 to 15 feet inside," Flores said.

All of the residents made it outside safely, according to Thomas Rutledge, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Fire Department.

Flores suffered minor breathing problems from inhaling too much smoke, but he was treated and released at the scene by paramedics. Residents were being assisted by the American Red Cross and the property owner, Huntington Management.

"I'm sorry for the residents that are displaced," said Tice Vieira, regional manager for Huntington Management. "This time of year is not a good time to have to go through this."

Vieira said he is working with all the residents to find apartments elsewhere in the same complex or at one of their other local properties. He said residents who wanted to move would not be penalized for breaking their lease.