Fire destroys 8 apartments

BUFORD - A blaze that took more than 25 firefighters to control destroyed eight apartment units and left residents in 23 units temporarily homeless.

When Gwinnett County firefighters arrived to the AMLI at Mill Creek apartment complex, located at 1400 Mall of Georgia Blvd., they saw smoke and flames.

"Smoke was rolling out and it got so bad at one point we couldn't even see the building," said resident April Holcomb, who lived on the first floor of the three-story apartment building that caught on fire.

The fire eventually broke through the roof of the complex and caused heavy damage to eight apartments in the center core of the building, said Thomas Rutledge, Gwinnett County Fire Department spokesman.

Many residents saw the fire on their way home from work.

"I was coming down I-85, saw some smoke and freaked out," said Julie Poole, an Amli resident. "I thought it was my apartment but I live in a different building."

Firefighters worked to contain the blaze and damage to the eight units in the building as residents looked on.

"We got crews on either side to keep the fire from spreading," said Capt. Scott Sheppard with the Gwinnett County Fire Department.

No one was injured, but Gwinnett County firefighter David Jones was on the third floor when debris from a roof collapse knocked him on the head.

"That's why we wear helmets," he said while resting on the grass a distance from the fire.

Residents from the building that caught on fire were sent to the apartment complex's clubhouse and were assisted by the Red Cross.

More than 20 people waited to hear if they could go back into their apartments to get items while making phone calls and talking with Red Cross representatives.

"I am so glad we have renter's insurance," Holcomb said. "I was listening to some people in this room and some don't have any."

The Red Cross provided apples, water, juice and food from McDonald's and tried to secure accommodations at area hotels for the residents.

The cause of the fire is undetermined and has been ruled accidental, but Rutledge said it originated in a first-floor apartment on the balcony.