Fire destroys apartment units

DULUTH - Firefighters ushered a group of 10 to 15 residents to safety Thursday morning after flames broke out at a Duluth apartment complex.

Gwinnett fire officials said six vacant units in the 1900 building of the apartments on Sweetwater Road were heavily damaged by the 7:23 a.m. blaze.

"The cause of the fire appears accidental and may have started from improperly discarded smoking materials on the balcony of a third floor apartment," said Gwinnett Fire spokesman Lt. Thomas Rutledge.

The unit in which the fire began was home to a woman and her daughter. Rutledge said the pair was not home at the time of the fire.

The blaze quickly extended to the attic and adjoining apartment units. Rutledge said it was fortunate no one was injured.

Fire crews were able to keep the blaze from spreading further and leave the scene just before noon.

Rutledge said four additional units sustained smoke and water damage.

The American Red Cross was requested to assist the residents displaced by the fire. Rutledge said the Red Cross was working with apartment management to provide temporary housing, food and clothing needs to the residents displaced.

According to a Fire Department press release, residents from other units inside the three-story, 20-unit building were displaced due to utility outages.

Rutledge said the more than 20-year-old building was not equipped with fire walls or sprinkler systems.

According to management, the individual units were equipped with working smoke detectors, the release said.