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18 families displaced by Norcross fire

NORCROSS - An early morning blaze on Saturday destroyed a 20-unit apartment building, displacing 74 people from their homes.

The fire resulted in a total loss of the Copper Mill Apartments building, located at 6855 Bebout Drive in Norcross.

The call was dispatched at 12:12 a.m. after an apartment resident called 911.

When fire officials arrived, heavy flames and black smoke were rising from the top floor of the three-story building, said Lt. Thomas Rutledge, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Fire Department,

The fire was concentrated near the center of the third floor and had spread into the attic.

Firefighters had the blaze under control at approximately 2 a.m, but the intensity and size of the fire caused a partial collapse of the structure, sending fire to the second and first floors, Rutledge said.

"Firefighters were not able to access all parts of the building due to (the) damage and instability of the structure," Rutledge said. "The firefighters were forced out due to the intense heat and flames. Crews flowed water from multiple hand lines and two ladder pipes from outside to extinguish the bulk of the fire."

Although the fire was under control within a couple of hours, firefighters remained on the scene until about 5 p.m. to make sure the fire was completely out, Rutledge said.

"It took approximately 40 firefighters operating 15 pieces of equipment to combat the blaze and protect a nearby apartment building that posed an immediate exposure hazard," he said.

Rutledge also said heavy equipment was called out on Saturday to bulldoze some of the walls that were unstable.

Only 18 of the apartment's 20 units were occupied, and all of those were evacuated by police officers, Rutledge said. No injuries were reported.

The American Red Cross and apartment management are working with the displaced victims, Rutledge said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.